At Recovery Zone Solutions we are proud to support our Military and our Veterans. The stress of deployment and the unique nature of their duties can increase the likelihood of dependency. Overly prescribed pain medication also increases chances of addiction.
Opioid and other Prescription Drug Misuse
Among active-duty service members in the 2015 HRBS, just over 4% reported misusing one or more prescription drug types in the past year.2
There has been much discussion about the amount of prescription pain medications prescribed to injured and sick military personnel, especially during the transition to medical discharge.1 Military physicians wrote nearly 3.8 million prescriptions for pain medication in 2009, more than quadruple the number of such prescriptions written in 2001.6 However, in the past few years, self-reported use of both prescription opioid pain relievers and use of sedatives has decreased among active duty personnel. From 2011 to 2015, the percentage of service members using pain relievers in the past month decreased by nearly half, likely reflecting prevention and appropriate prescribing initiatives set in motion by the Department of Defense.22Nonetheless, these medications were misused and overused more often than other drugs. Prescription drug misuse was highest in the Army and lowest in the Coast Guard.2
Opioid use disorders among military personnel often begin with a opioid pain prescription following an injury during deployment. However, due to the addictive nature of opioids, particularly coupled with mental health struggles experienced by some military service men and women, regular use of opioids can lead to addiction.
Many veterans have unique issues related to pain management, with two-thirds reporting they experience pain.7 More than 9% reported that they experience severe pain, compared to only 6.4% of non-veterans7, putting them at higher risk for accidental opioid pain reliever overdoses. From 2001 to 2009, the percent of veterans in the VHA system receiving an opioid prescription increased from 17% to 24%.3 Similarly, the overall opioid overdose rates of veterans increased to 21% in 2016 from 14% in 2010.8 However, the overdose increases were mostly from heroin and synthetic opioids, and not from opioids taken for pain relief.8
Alcohol use disorders are the most prevalent form of SUDs among military personnel.5 It is challenging to compare overall rates to the non-military population because service personnel tend to be younger and have a higher percentage of males, putting them at greater risk in general.2 However, increased combat exposure involving violence and trauma experienced by those who serve result in an increased risk of problematic drinking. The 2015 HRBS report concluded that across all services, 5.4 percent of military personnel were heavy drinkers compared to 6.7 percent in the general adult population reported in 2014. However, binge drinking was reported as higher among active duty personnel (30% vs. 24.7%), although lower than the 33% reported in 2011.2 One in three of service members were binge drinkers, comparable to a 2014 estimate of one in four in the general population.2 More than one in three service personnel met criteria for hazardous drinking or possible alcohol use disorder2, with rates higher among men than women.
A 2017 study examining National Survey on Drug Use and Health data found that, compared to their non-veteran counterparts, veterans were more likely to use alcohol (56.6% vs 50.8% in a 1-month period), and to report heavy use of alcohol (7.5% vs 6.5% in a 1-month period).3 Sixty-five percent of veterans who enter a treatment program report alcohol as the substance they most frequently misuse, which is almost double that of the general population.5”
As reported by drugabuse.gov: