As we continue our discussion of substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans, it is important to explore the issue of self-medication: what it is and why it is so prevalent among service members who suffer from PTSD, depression, and anxiety after returning home from active duty overseas.
What is self-medication?
Self-medication is when a person takes illegal drugs, unprescribed drugs, or other mind-altering substances in order to treat a physical or mental condition without the help or guidance of a medical professional. Self-medication is most common in those with chronic pain, traumatic brain injuries, or mental conditions like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.
Self-medication is dangerous for several reasons. Without official diagnosis and regulated treatment, those who self-medicate risk overdoses, addiction, and dependence. In addition, those who self-medicate often miss out on other vital aspects of treatment, such as therapy.
What is the connection between veterans with PTSD and self-medication?
A large minority of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from symptoms of PTSD. Unfortunately, this mental health condition is still stigmatized and many veterans choose to keep their mental health issues secret after they get home. In order to cope with this disease–which can make it extremely difficult to hold down a job, continue healthy relationships, enjoy life, or complete everyday tasks–many turn to self-medication.
Self-medication can take many forms, from drinking alcohol to taking illegal prescription drugs and from smoking marijuana to turning to harder street drugs. Self-medication often develops into substance dependence or abuse–and also often prevents veterans from confronting some of their health issues.
If you or a veteran that you love is suffering from service-connected PTSD, you should know that there are a number of resources available to you–and that you are far from alone. To learn more about your options for treatment, disability benefits, action, and support, call Morgan & Weisbrod today: 800-800-6353.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.