During the Vietnam war, approximately 20% of military personnel were addicted to heroin. Upon returning to the U.S. and getting clean, however, 95% of those who were addicted in Vietnam and got clean did not become re-addicted. This is a highly studied phenomenon in the world of addiction treatment. What it largely points to, is that addiction has a great deal to do with a combination of the availability of drugs, the circumstances under which they become available and the length of time a certain substance is abused.

Drug use is largely tied to availability

One of the key factors in the high rate of addiction in Vietnam was the ready availability of heroin – a substance that many of them might not have ever encountered in the US, thanks to trade disputes with the countries that are the heaviest suppliers. Teens who attend schools where drugs are readily available are at a greater risk for substance abuse than teens who attend schools with strict anti-drug policies that are genuinely enforced.

Addiction is often tied to certain stimuli or the environment where the addiction was developed

Addiction is often triggered by certain stimuli and often the result of a set of ingrained patterns and behaviors. Young servicemen who became addicts in Vietnam and then returned to the US left behind many of the stimuli and triggers that first formed their addiction, making it easier to kick the addiction once they returned home. Young people living in Utah that developed an addiction Utah do not generally have the luxury of completely removing themselves from the environment in which they developed an addiction after completing drug rehab Utah. This also decreases their ability to completely remove themselves from their triggers. Triggers can be anything from the senses like sight or smell, to seeing certain friends that they used to drink with.

Drugs are often used a means of combatting stress or boredom

Teens who are subjected to a great deal of stress or boredom are almost twice as likely to use drugs as teens who have active or low-stress lifestyles. In Vietnam, young servicemen regularly found their lives ping-ponging between periods of sheer and utter boredom and overwhelming stress.

When the stress or boredom continues, so does the pattern of drug use. Over time, this pattern of drug use becomes a habit and eventually unchecked habits will become addictions. At any point in this chain, an addiction can be derailed by a change in boredom or stress levels. Most young adult struggling with addiction are still in the fairly early stages of addiction and often stand the greatest chance of being able to make the necessary changes to keep their addictions patterns and behaviors from becoming a lifelong addiction.

Addictions tend to become more severe over time, giving young adults the best chance of fighting them

The longer a person engages in a set pattern of behavior, the more deeply ingrained those patterns become. People who begin using drugs in early adolescence are highly vulnerable to drug problems in adulthood. Young adults struggling with addiction who didn’t even start drinking or using drugs until their late teens or early 20’s will have the greatest chance of being able to actually kick their addictions rather than simply being able to manage them for the rest of their lives. In Vietnam, most servicemen were only overseas a few years. If they didn’t engage in drug use prior to their service, then they only had a few years of ingrained patterns to have to overcome.

If you or a loved one is a young adult struggling with addiction, now is the time to get help. There are a number of treatment centers that can help and there has never been a time when there have been more treatment options available. Call a local treatment center today and let them help you figure out what the next step is.


by:  Angela Pattridge