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Military Treatment Facilities

Major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse are common in military veterans. Fear, anxiety, physical injuries, extended separation from loved ones and the demands of military service make even the most courageous individuals vulnerable to alcohol or drug abuse. Military alcohol and drug rehab programs address the needs of veterans, providing services that can help you cope with the psychological repercussions of combat as well as the physical effects of addiction.

PTSD and Substance Abuse

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is often an underlying factor for substance abuse among veterans and active-duty service members. PTSD is a chronic mental condition that may cause flashbacks to the traumatic event, sleep disturbances, restlessness, depression, anxiety and irritability. The defining symptom of PTSD is the inability to recover from the memory of the trauma and return to a stable, healthy life.

Although professional treatment is available, many veterans aren’t aware that the anxiety, anger, nightmares and trauma they experience can be attributed to a medical disorder. Instead of seeking therapy from a mental health professional, veterans with PTSD may turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) found that PTSD is a common diagnosis in military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In veterans of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, the USDHHS found that:

  • About 25 percent were diagnosed with PTSD, depression, anxiety or substance abuse.
  • Over half had more than one mental health or substance abuse disorder.
  • Approximately 13 percent were diagnosed with PTSD.
  • The rate of PTSD among these veterans was 3.5 percent higher than the civilian population.

Older generations of veterans also suffer from PTSD, proving that the effects of this disorder are pervasive and long lasting. The National Center for PTSD reports that up to 80 percent of veterans of the Vietnam War have alcohol abuse problems. Binge drinking is common among veterans with PTSD, who may consume large quantities of alcohol in order to deal with flashbacks and episodes of anxiety or depression. But using alcohol — a central nervous system depressant — to relieve PTSD may actually worsen symptoms such as:

  • Emotional numbness
  • Anger and irritability
  • Depression

  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares

Veterans and active-duty service members alike can suffer from the stress of combat. To recover successfully from substance abuse, you need a treatment program that also addresses the causes and solutions for PTSD. Unless the profound effects of psychological trauma are addressed, you may continue to relapse into drug or alcohol abuse, even after going through rehabilitation.

Rehab for Veterans

After returning home, many veterans struggle to adjust to the demands of civilian life. Unresolved psychological trauma, physical pain, marital conflicts, financial problems and employment concerns can contribute to the problem of substance abuse. Rehab services are available through government-sponsored facilities or private treatment centers that specialize in addressing the needs of the military.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides substance abuse treatment for veterans who suffer from alcohol or drug abuse or dependence. Whether you need outpatient counseling, group therapy or medically supervised inpatient rehabilitation, the VA offers these services to veterans throughout the country. VA medical centers offer substance abuse treatment for eligible veterans, including:

  • Therapy for the psychological sources of substance abuse, like PTSD, depression and anxiety
  • Individual counseling to help you identify the triggers for drug or alcohol use and avoid a relapse
  • Counseling for couples and families on how to strengthen relationships in recovery
  • Access to support groups outside the VA system, like Alcoholics Anonymous or Rational Recovery
  • Medications to help you recover from alcohol dependence by suppressing the craving for alcohol or minimizing long-term withdrawal symptoms

While some veterans find support and strength in VA rehabilitation services, others prefer to seek treatment in private facilities. Private rehabilitation may be more costly than VA substance abuse treatment, which may be covered by your military benefits. However, if you feel that you’d have a better chance of successful recovery in a private setting, the extra expense will be worthwhile. Nothing is more important than getting your life back after battling the disease of addiction.

Early Treatment May Improve Outcomes for Veterans

Getting military veterans the help they need to recover from mental trauma soon after discharge may help them avoid years of personal, psychological and financial struggles, according to a report from the Rand Corporation. The Rand Corporation found that while providing veterans with immediate, high-quality treatment for PTSD depression would be more expensive initially, the cost savings to society would ultimately pay off:

  • As of 2008, 22 percent of veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan suffered from depression or PTSD.
  • Out of this number, 52 percent received treatment, resulting in a cost to society of $923 million in terms of medical care and lives lost to suicide.
  • With high-quality care for all veterans returning home, 100 percent of those who suffer from PTSD or depression would be treated immediately.
  • With treatment for 100 percent of affected veterans, the cost to society would be $785 million.

Treatment for Active-Duty Service Members

Alcohol and drug rehabilitation services are available through each of the five branches of the U.S. Military: the Army, the Marine Corps, the Navy, the Air Force and the Coast Guard. Substance abuse and dependence are not uncommon among military personnel or their families. Because drug and alcohol use can affect judgment and impair performance, substance abuse in active-duty service members is seen as a threat to national security. The possession, use, distribution or manufacture of illegal substances is strictly prohibited under military law.

Active-duty service members are encouraged to self-report problems with drug or alcohol abuse in order to receive prompt, efficient medical treatment. Each branch of the military makes it a priority to prevent and treat substance abuse in active-duty service members:

  • Army Substance Abuse Program: Provides substance abuse prevention, counseling and intensive rehabilitation services for soldiers, military family members and civilian employees
  • Marine Corps Community Services Substance Abuse Program: Provides drug and alcohol screening, substance abuse counseling, treatment, aftercare and case management to active-duty Marines and their beneficiaries
  • Navy Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation (SARP): Provides screening, counseling and referrals to outpatient or inpatient services for active-duty service members, Navy family members or veterans
  • Air Force Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program (ADAPT): Provides preventive education and treatment to active-duty personnel and their family members
  • Coast Guard Substance Abuse Program: Provides education, treatment and training that support the U.S. Coast Guard’s policies on substance abuse and dependence

Finding Help and Hope

Asking for help isn’t easy, especially when you’ve been trained to display strength and courage under the worst of circumstances. In fact, reaching out to others for help with a drug or alcohol problem takes tremendous strength and courage. Dealing with the aftermath of psychological trauma alone can destroy your physical health, ruin personal relationships and leave you financially devastated. We can put you in touch with addiction professionals who understand that military service members and veterans need unique services in recovery.

Whether you’re seeking help for yourself, a family member or someone you care about, you shouldn’t face the challenges of recovery alone. Intensive counseling, medical supervision and structured group therapy are important components of military drug and alcohol rehabilitation. To ensure that you get the comprehensive treatment you require, look for a rehabilitation center that’s dedicated to the needs of military personnel.

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