Soldiers, PSTD, and Substance Abuse… Minus the Spin

by The Discovering Alcoholic on July 8, 2008

The Discovering Alcoholic and his tank, LandsharkThere’s been a lot of talk in the news and blogs lately about American soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome (PSTD) and how this often leads to substance abuse and addiction. Flawed, but at least effective in raising awareness, The New York Times published After the Battle, Fighting the Bottle at Home with an emotionally charged video that has been referenced ad nauseum by political forces on the left and the right.

Unfortunately they are far more concerned about using the problems of our soldiers as tools to promote their candidates and ideologies than talking about solutions. So this morning I visited my old first sergeant who now runs the Veteran’s Affairs office to refine the TDA stance on this issue. A veteran of two wars, combat experience, and a second career of taking care of “his” veterans… he is an authority on the subject and a very dear friend.

Click “Read more” to continue…

In a nutshell we both thought the NY Times story was cherry picked facts put together to pull the heart strings, but there was one very important statement that makes reading all five pages worthwhile.

Substance abuse, though, must often be treated first, experts say, since it is hard to treat someone for combat stress who is drinking or using drugs.

In fact we both agreed that in many cases PTSD is more a symptom of the substance abuse and addiction than actual combat trauma. This is not a very PC position, it does not promote the view of any particular ideology, and some would say that it is disrespectful of their sacrifice, however it is the truth.

Almost all alcoholics and addicts suffer from depression and abnormal emotional behavior that can be truthfully diagnosed with a host of mental issues, but the majority of these issues fade in recovery. This by no means is saying that these issues do not exist without the addiction catalyst, just that they are far rarer when one has a healthy mind and lifestyle to help weather the storm… I have personal experience and anecdotal evidence that supports this runs true with veterans and PTSD.

I plan to follow up by submitting a series of posts this month that go into greater detail on this issue including substance abuse problems unique to the military and a particular danger that is going virtually unreported that is a direct result of the war. One thing that we should all agree on is that our veterans deserve all the help we can provide to them and their families. That includes supporting them in battle and providing the resources necessary so that returning home is a positive experience.

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