By VP2H Executive Director Tony Drees
April is Stress Awareness Month. For a military veteran, stress is often associated with reliving trauma and with just trying to manage living from one day to the next. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious challenge for many veterans, as it is for many civilians who have experienced a significant trauma in their lives.
What does all of this have to do with opioid addiction? Trauma and stress very often lead to pain, physically, mentally, and emotionally. In our current environment, pain is usually treated with pills. Those pills can be severely addictive, especially to someone who finds the comfort in them that is so evasive in everyday life.
Stress thrives on triggers. Those triggers can cause someone with PTSD, in particular, to relive the trauma and to feel the pain all over again with each occurrence. Then the cycle usually continues with pills to relieve that pain.
Learning your triggers is half the battle. If you know how to avoid them, how to mitigate them, and how to overcome them without the use of pills, you have a better chance of winning the other half of the battle. Stress awareness, trauma trigger awareness, is key to being able to manage PTSD and its ramifications.
Sadly, the protocol for physical (and even much of emotional) pain is to prescribe pills. Those opioids are addictive. Even worse, their side effects typically include depression and suicidal tendencies. For someone already struggling to manage stress and the after-effects of trauma, these medications can just exacerbate an already bleak situation.
I know this from personal experience. Having just experienced my 72nd surgery in the 27 years since I survived a scud missile attack in the Gulf War, I know that the natural tendency in the medical world is to prescribe these addictive pain killers. And, I just received a package from the VA warning me that I might be in danger of opioid addiction!
There are alternatives to addictive prescription medications. When dealing with stress and trauma, be aware of those triggers for yourself. Everyone is different. Everyone has different triggers. Talk to someone in the medical field that you trust – and whose first instinct is not to prescribe more opioids.
There are options. Take time during Stress Awareness Month to understand your options. Let me know how VP2H can help. We truly have “been there.”