The Dangers of Military & Veteran Opioid Misuse:

Military service comes with a multitude of risks and dangers. Many of those serving our country come home with scars—both visible and invisible— and are in need of care and treatment. But what happens when our methods of treating the pain becomes a new danger?

If you were treated for injury relating to your service the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona is here to help.

Veterans Using Opioids At More Risk Than Ever

The COVID-19 pandemic has met the opioid crisis head-on. It has led to increased anxiety, isolation and depression. Everything from alcohol sales to suspected drug overdoses are up. But for one group, this perfect storm has been particularly devastating: veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Luke Fadell, Veteran and Military Family Navigator for the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ), paints the picture. “Imagine returning from active duty. You’re battling PTSD. Your reliance on prescribed opioids is growing. Suddenly, you’re smack dab in the middle of a pandemic that’s out of control.”

Taken individually, any of these can be overwhelming. Together, it’s creating a crisis flying below the radar of many people trying to maintain their own physical and financial health.

“One of the biggest problems for a veteran with PTSD to overcome is the feeling of guilt. Sometimes referred to as survivor guilt.” says Fadell. They don’t want to recreate the pain, so they turn it inward. This isolation often leads to a greater dependence on opioids.”

During this pandemic, breaks in the U.S. drug supply chain has created even greater risks. In hot spots, low stocks of opioids have led to uneven usage; what’s more, traveling to doctors’ office isn’t always possible. Considering these factors, as well as uncertainty of when the world will return to normal, it’s no wonder the risk of suicide continues to climb.

A recent report from the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute projects that for every 5% jump in unemployment, additional 550 veterans die by suicide annually. That’s on top of the 20 veterans who take their lives every day.

“This is a huge problem,” says Patrick Ziegert, Veteran and Certified Peer Support Specialist for BIAAZ. “The financial and emotional stress is unimaginable. It’s really a case of one overwhelming trauma upon another with no end in sight.”

Ziegert adds, “They need to know where to turn, even if they’re embarrassed to do so. Fortunately, BIAAZ offers resources for these members of the military and their families. “Our services are free and confidential.”

Fadell, himself a veteran, also encourages them to seek help. “We’re here to help during these dangerous times. It’s the least we can do for the men and women who have gone the extra mile for our country.”

Veterans and their families are encouraged to reach out directly to

Highlights — BIAAZ:

  • Works with Congressional Brain Injury Task Force
  • Houses Arizona Brain Health Resource Center
  • Hosts Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Workgroup
  • Has Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Response team with peer support, training and family wraparound services
  • Facilitates Brain Health Advisory Council
  • Manages statewide Neuro Info-Line 888-500-9165

Resources for Veterans:

  • Opioid addiction materials
  • 10 hours of counseling sessions at no cost
  • PTSD vs TBI information
  • Certified Peer Support Specialist on staff
  • Veteran Navigator on staff


BIAAZ’s Veteran Family and Peer Support Specialist Luke Fadell talks about our services for Veterans.

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