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Post: How to speak to veterans struggling with addiction

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How to speak to veterans struggling with addiction
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Substance use disorders and mental health problems impact countless veterans. Unfortunately, too many slip through the cracks and never get help. While there are many reasons for this, it is often a lack of early intervention, stigma with addiction and, in some cases, inadequate drug education.

However, early intervention is vital, with the best approaches being conversations and even drug education. While it is challenging to know how many veterans have substance use disorders and mental health problems, it’s safe to say there are many struggling in silence. Yet, we can reach those close to us and those in the community.

According to census data, in 2022, 6.20% of the adult population in Pennsylvania were considered veterans. Many of these veterans are affected by factors related to substance use, such as pain, suicide risk, homelessness and trauma. Per the National Survey for Drug Use and Health, 3.6 million veterans had a past year substance use disorder in the United States.

Alcohol use disorders, for example, are a common problem and often the catalyst for most addictions. According to drug abuse statistics, 18.5% of Pennsylvania adults over 18 binge drink at least once per month. There are an average of 5,703 annual deaths in the state because of excessive alcohol use.

Veterans ages 18 to 49 were the most likely to struggle with addiction across the country. Yet, few veterans seek treatment. An estimated 3.43 million veterans, or 95.4% of the 3.6 million, did not perceive a need for substance use treatment, and only 0.3% sought drug rehab per national data.

Start the conversation by talking to a veteran about substance use and prevention. Do not avoid these conversations; they could be the turning point that convinces them to get help. It is challenging for anyone to open up about their struggles, but this simple act of having a conversation could be a critical moment for a loved one, friend or acquaintance.

For instance, when you begin the conversation, focus on sharing your feelings. Tell them you have noticed they have been drinking more than usual and wondering if everything is okay. You could also tell […]

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