The Scripps Research Institute in California created a study that proved that stress had a direct correlation to addiction (and therefore substance abuse). Psychology Today captured the study in 2010 under the article title, “Stress Hormone Key to Alcohol Dependence”. It is no secret that stress can both physically and mentally impair an individual, especially if that individual is exposed to prolonged periods of severe stress. Combat veterans can be categorized as such overly-stressed individuals, and not so surprisingly, a large number of combat veterans suffer from some form of substance abuse.

But why are veterans inclined to develop addiction even after they return home from war? Unfortunately, veterans are still under a great amount of stress once they are discharged from service—more specifically, these veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs reports that one in five combat veterans develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, either during or shortly after combat. The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as having three main categories of symptoms: “re-experiencing symptoms,” “avoidance symptoms,” and “hyperarousal symptoms”. These categories can be simplified to describe symptoms of flashbacks and nightmares, feeling of guilt and depression, and insomnia, respectively. Undoubtedly, these often all-encompassing symptoms can cause a veteran to seek any coping mechanism available in order to “treat” these symptoms.

So how can alcoholism (and potentially addiction in general) be prevented? Since stress is the underlying cause of addiction, scientists at Scripps Research Institute inject rats with an anxiety-inducing hormone known as corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). All humans (unfortunately) possess this hormone, and it is this hormone that can somewhat be blamed for human’s underlying tendencies to develop addictions in order to relieve the stress this hormone produces.

In order to combat CRF, the rats were exposed to alcohol vapors, which were designated to be the first “treatment” for the rat’s accumulated stress. As predicted, the rats soon became addicted to the vapors. In order to wean them off, the scientists introduced a “CRF-antagonist” that soon allowed the rats to release stress naturally, without the assistance or alcohol. Thus, the rats were able to break free from their alcohol addiction, even though these rats were so addicted, that they were experiencing withdrawal symptoms just like humans!

So, in order for veterans to finally break free from their addiction, they should address their underlying stress and trauma as soon as possible.
However, veterans who suffer from PTSD are strongly discouraged from seeking medical attention by ways of the VA. Reports released by CBS News in 2013 revealed that medical professionals associated with the VA prescribed 259% more narcotics than in 2002, and that individualized therapy had fallen by the wayside. A medical practitioner associated with the VA anonymously admitted to CBS News in a TV interview that “it is easier to write a prescription for narcotics and to just move along and get to the next patient” so that more veterans would be “treated”. This news outbreak, coupled with the 2014 VA scandal, hopefully cause ailing veterans to consult non-associated medical facilities to rehabilitate their physical and mental health.

One of those organizations is Operation: I.V, a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2012 that helps combat veterans heal from both PTSD as well as traumatic brain injuries. Its founder, Roxann Abrams, is a Gold Star Mother who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams in 2009. Randy took his own life after experiencing a PTSD flashback from his service in Iraq. Randy had undiagnosed PTSD- a common occurrence among combat veterans either due to mistakes made by the medical field or simply the individual’s failure to report such grave symptoms.

As a result of her son’s death, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. so that combat veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan have a place to receive treatment through a specialized “VIP”, or “Veteran Intervention Plan” program. “VIP” offers ten different rehabilitation programs, including hyperbolic oxygen therapy, service dogs, and anxiety reduction therapy. Additionally, veterans may also partake in programs such as job retraining, business mentoring, and educational assistance. Again, while there is no cure for PTSD, the programs provided by Operation: I.V. can drastically improve a veteran’s mental health and overall outlook on life.

Author's Bio: 

Abigail Fazelat is a contributing writer for Operation: I.V., a non-profit organization founded by Gold Star Mother Roxann Abrams who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams to PTSD. Randy took his own life after experiencing a wartime flashback- an experience not uncommon to any combat veteran. As a result, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. as an “intravenous of help” for other Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and contemplating suicide. Fazelat has worked for the organization since October 2013 under a pseudonym.