Former POWs Have More PTSD, Substance AbuseEven though the United States hasn’t been involved in an according-to-Hoyle declared war since World War II, we’ve put enough military personnel in harm’s way that we had a prisoner of war (POW) as recently as 2014. And nearly 30,000 from dating back to World War I are still alive. To honor them and the memory of more than 100,000 other late POWs, April 9 is Former POW Recognition Day (not to be confused with National POW/MIA Recognition Day, September 18). According to an undated statement on the We Honor Veterans website, 29,350 Americans formerly imprisoned as prisoners of war (POWs) since World War I are still alive. There’s no mention of how many of them have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or a substance use disorder, but it could be a significant number. In one study of American POWs, 67% had PTSD in their lifetime. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), 20% of all veterans with PTSD also have a substance use disorder (SUD). A third of vets with SUD—or at least the ones seeking treatment for it—also have PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD include:
- Unwanted memories or nightmares of and flashbacks to the traumatic event
- Avoidance of thoughts or places associated with the traumatic event
- Negative thoughts, feeling hopeless or numb, memory loss
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating, feeling guilt or shame, drinking abusively, reckless behavior
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