Arizona veterans likely to experience the effects of social isolation for years to come, experts warn

  • 12.4% of Arizona veterans binge drink.
  • Those who suffer from PTSD may turn to substances as a means to try alleviate these feelings.
  • Useful information for friends and relatives of veterans.

VeteranAddiction.org has advised friends and relatives of veterans to keep a close eye on them for signs of deteriorating mental health and substance use following a year of social isolation that can have lasting effects.

For many veterans who have spent years trying to overcome trauma they’ve experienced, the coronavirus pandemic has been particularly challenging. While circumstances have undeniably affected almost everyone across the entire country, those with PTSD, anxiety or depression may have faced a significant regression in terms of sobriety and general mental health.

Indeed, research indicated that veterans were a vulnerable population even before the past year’s social isolation – in 2017, the binge drinking rate among US veterans was 15.9%, growing steadily from 14.3% in 2013. Broken down, this figure was found to be 16.1% for male veterans and 13.7% for female veterans. In Arizona, the binge drinking rate was 12.4%*.

Across the country, this figure was highest in Hawaii (21.5%), and lowest in Utah (9.1%).

The coronavirus pandemic brought with it a massive loss of life on an unprecedented scale in modern times. This, combined with constant fear of a somewhat invisible threat – a contagious virus – could well be a trigger for veterans who struggle with trauma disorders. Research also found that veterans may be more vulnerable to alcohol abuse, with more than 65% who entered an addiction program having reported alcohol as their primary substance of abuse. Additionally, nearly 8 in 10 Vietnam veterans seeking treatment for PTSD were found to have issues with alcohol abuse.

Find out more about addiction help for veterans here

The pandemic may have proved especially difficult in terms of relapse and recovery. While isolation can sometimes be a common behavioral symptom among those who suffer with PTSD, prolonged social isolation can have a negative impact on veterans. With limited social interactions due to health and safety regulations, many veterans may have experienced a lack of support structure over the last year. With a continually rising rate of binge drinking among US veterans over the years, social distancing, combined with exacerbated feelings of stress, anxiety, fear and depression due to the pandemic, may prove to have a worse impact on veterans’ mental health and substance use than we could have anticipated. Experts fear that the psychological effects of social isolation over the past year will have a lasting impact on some veterans’ mental health. Those who suffer from PTSD may turn to substances as a means to try alleviate these feelings, however unfortunately, these effects are only temporary.

VeteranAddiction.org advises that anyone who has relatives or friends who are veterans should keep a close eye on their lifestyle habits over the following months, in order to monitor any developing signs of substance use, addiction or relapse. If you suspect a loved one who has experienced trauma is having difficulty in terms of substance and/or alcohol dependence, contact your local care clinic for more information on how to help.

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