#Veterans: self-medicating ‘civvy’ stress

Drinking Soldier

At the end of their service, how do military veterans cope with adjusting to life on ‘civvy street’? Often the answer is sadly… not very well, despite the efforts of any available support efforts.

Comparing active service in a combat zone, with transition to civilian life might seem a little trite to some. However, the stress inducing ‘unknowns’ of that process can be worse than a battlefield for many. Especially for those who feel they have little or no control over the issues impacting on their life.

It should be remembered that for most military personnel, they have spent the vast majority of their adult life in an environment where everything is planned for… PPPPPP. In general, many ex-service veterans struggle to deal with with what-ifs. It’s not something they have been trained for and are often unaccustomed to dealing with.

Significant changes to almost every part of a veteran’s life are taking place at the end of their service, and all at the same time. The stress generated by issues such as housing, employment, finances, geographical location, family life, and support networks can all have a significant impact.

But the stress experienced by some veterans is at worst dismissed or at best, often poorly understood by many who have no experience of this transition. Is it any wonder some turn to drink (or more drink than before)?

A post at ARRSE about Giving up the drink asked… Who’s done it? It was interesting to read the thoughts of somebody who had struggled with alcohol, during military service and after transition to civvy street. It was good that many readers supported the author’s new found abstinence, despite the few who (sadly) still chose to ridicule that choice, out of bravado or puerile stupidity.

Giving up the drink, who’s done it? Like most on here I’m a borderline alcoholic as per the NHS’s official definition. I joined the mob just after my 16th birthday and was encouraged to get smashed pretty much every night. Getting pissed was as much a part of Navy life as eating. Things obviously progressed from there. (Read more)

It has long been known; there are higher levels of alcohol consumption in the UK armed forces than within the general population (see here). This may increase the risk of veterans using alcohol as a coping strategy when adjusting to civilian life.

What do US studies tell us about the utility of brief alcohol interventions for reducing the risk of military personnel developing drinking problems and using alcohol to cope during this time? (Read analysis of the study).

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