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Military veterans commonly experience major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse. 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.1

Military alcohol and drug rehab programs address the specific needs of veterans, providing services that can help you cope with the psychological repercussions of deployment and combat as well as the physical effects of addiction.


Substance Use Disorders

SUDs are commonly found in the veteran population, with 1 in 10 veterans having been diagnosed.

Substance use disorders (SUDs) result from when someone’s use of alcohol or drugs brings about health issues and/or problems in life (at work, school, home).2 Various factors including genetics, emotional stress, depression, anxiety, and peer pressure may be factors in causing SUDs.

SUDs are commonly found in the veteran population, with 1 in 10 veterans having been diagnosed.1 According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, around 11% of those veterans who have gone to the VA for first time care have met the criteria for SUDs.3,4

 While various substances may be abused by veterans, the substance most often misused is alcohol. Recent data on substance abuse treatment admissions (in non-VA-affiliated facilities) reveals that, of the 62,000 veteran admission in 2013, 65.4% were admitted for alcohol abuse.5



SUDs and PTSD

Military personnel are at an increased risk for PTSD when exposed to military combat.6 The number of veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD varies based on when they served, but of those who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, between 11-20% have PTSD.7

PTSD is a chronic mental condition that may cause flashbacks to the traumatic event, sleep disturbances, restlessness, depression, anxiety, and irritability.7 The defining symptom of PTSD is the inability to recover from the memory of the trauma and return to a stable, healthy life.

Rehab services are available through government-sponsored facilities or private treatment centers that specialize in addressing the needs of the military.

PTSD is often an underlying factor for substance abuse among veterans and active-duty service members.

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.

Of recent Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, 63% who were diagnosed with SUDs also met criteria for PTSD.1 In fact almost one third of veterans being treated for SUDs also have PTSD.3 Of those diagnosed with alcohol use disorder and another SUD, the PTSD diagnosis was at a rate of 76%.9

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 my 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:8

  • 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.


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 (ASAP): 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 Prevention Program (SAPP): 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.


Sources

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). DrugFacts: General Risk of Substance Use Disorders.
  2. S. National Library of Medicine. (2020). MedlinePlus: Substance use disorder.
  3. S. Department of Veteran Affairs. (2019). Health Services Research & Development.
  4. Teeters, J.B., Lancaster, C.L., Brown, D.G., Back, S.E. (2017). Substance use disorders in military veterans: prevalence and treatment challenges. Subst Abuse Rehabil, 8, 69-77.
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). The CBHSQ Report: Veterans’ Primary Substance of Abuse is Alcohol in Treatment Admissions.
  6. S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). PTSD: National Center for PTSD.
  7. Brady, K.T., Tuerk, P., Back, S.E., Saladin, M.E., Waldrop, A.E., Myrick, H. (2009). Combat Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Substance Use Disorders, and Traumatic Brain Injury. J Addict Med, 3(4), 179-188.
  8. S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Mental Health: Treatment Programs for Substance Use Problems.
  9. S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). PTSD: National Center for PTSD: Treatment of Co-Occurring PTSD and Substance Use Disorder in VA.

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