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Lisa Cypers Kamen, MA

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Invisible War Wounds and the New Face of Addiction

Posted: 10/11/2012 4:18 pm

I've seen the veteran whose world fell apart because he used substances to kill the pain of his battlefield killing. I've witnessed the soldier use addiction to dull the horror of seeing children and civilians die in the line of duty. With no treatment available for these invisible wounds and no end to the anguish in sight, more of our Veterans are self-medicating the best they can -- and often, that means numbing the pains of war with alcohol and prescription drugs.

Prescription drug abuse within the military has tripled between 2005 and 2008, and nearly one-third of our returning Iraq War Vets showed signs of alcohol abuse. Our soldiers frequently report their alcohol issues, yet they are rarely referred to treatment programs. Meanwhile, the prevalence of PTSD is hitting an unprecedented level, making the 300,000 afflicted Iraq and Afghansitan war soldiers significantly more vulnerable to alcohol abuse. And when younger service members with reported combat exposures are deployed, more times than not, they use alcohol to help them cope when nothing else will.

The invisible wounds of war are breeding a new generation of addiction in America, and we have a moral duty to help our veterans heal holistically. We wouldn't allow our troops' physical battlefield injuries go untreated, and we need to start devoting the same care to their psychological wounds. Positive psychology is a powerful treatment for our Veterans, and an even more powerful anti-drug.

For the countless veterans I work with, each day of their new civilian life is colored by depression, sadness, survivor's guilt, and shame for experiencing all these feelings. As we work through their pain together, I see them transform their trauma into transcendence and growth. Positive psychology and other cognitive therapies give our veterans a safe, stigma-free avenue for healing, helping them apply their strengths and talents to their new civilian roles.

 
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