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Deployment Stress and Addiction

Deployment Stress and AddictionMilitary deployment often involves a combination of anticipation and anxiety. In addition to a healthy fear of combat soldiers also face financial concerns and worries about important relationships back home. The stress associated with deployment can be very intense and can greatly increase an individual’s risk of addiction, if they use drugs or alcohol to cope with troubling emotions.

The stress of deployment is not limited to those shipping out. Parents, spouses, friends and other loved ones face a season of anxiety and fear, as the soldier in their life leaves them for weeks or months at a time. Adjusting to life apart and worrying about their loved one’s safety can be just as stressful as preparing for combat. Many of these individuals may also turn to alcohol or drugs to block their feelings of sadness or anxiety.

The Relationship between Stress and Addiction

Drugs and alcohol have multiple effects on the body and the mind. In addition to blocking physical pain signals these substances bind to specialized receptors in the brain that manage psychological functions related to stress management, emotions and anxiety. People who are experiencing heightened levels of stress may find themselves inadvertently medicating their symptoms through the following activities:

  • Daily use of alcohol in excess of one drink (women) or two drinks (men)
  • Binge drinking (any drinking with the intent of becoming drunk)
  • Prescription antidepressant abuse
  • Painkiller abuse
  • Marijuana use
  • Hallucinogen use
  • Sleeping medication abuse
  • Cocaine or other stimulant use

The body develops a tolerance to such substances quickly. This means that the user will need increasing doses to feel the desired effects. Eventually they become dependent on the chemical without experiencing the perceived benefits. They need a constant supply of the substance in order to function, but no amount will truly relieve the anxiety they are experiencing. This kind of addiction is physical and psychological, and it has the ability to completely destroy a person’s physical and mental health.

Preventing Deployment Stress and Addiction

The most important key to preventing deployment stress and related substance abuse and addiction is the cultivation of communication and emotional regulation skills. Counselors can help soldiers and those who love them learn new, healthy ways of identifying and coping with stress. This often involves the following elements:

  • Individual counseling using various therapy techniques
  • Group meetings that involve individuals with similar struggles, so they can help and learn from each other
  • Communication skills development classes
  • Therapeutic techniques that help individuals learn to identify and name their feelings and to actively decide whether they want be controlled by them or not
  • Establishing and reinforcing healthy relational boundaries
  • Developing goals and a vision for a healthy future

Deployment-Related Addiction Recovery Help

If you or someone you love has developed an addiction that you suspect may be connected to deployment or other stress, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our counselors are standing by any time of day or night and are able to answer your questions about this unique set of circumstances and challenges. We can connect you with the best recovery programs for your unique situation. Don’t bear this burden alone, and don’t let addiction add to the pain and anxiety you are already experiencing. Find lasting freedom from addiction and the tools you need to have peace of mind and a healthy life. Call today.