Veterans Drug and Alcohol Addiction: Treatment Options and Centers
The fact that military veterans are more likely to develop a mental health disorder than civilians may not come as much of a surprise. Veterans experience severe physical, mental, and emotional stress due to the nature of their job. Stress and trauma can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, as well as a variety of other mental health problems.
Substance abuse and addiction are becoming increasingly prevalent among US military personnel. More than one out of every ten veterans in the United States has had a substance use disorder at some time in their lives. This rate is somewhat higher than the national average. In the United States, there are now approximately 2.2 million active-duty service members and 23.4 million veterans. Many veterans and active-duty military members deal with physical and mental health issues that risk developing drug or alcohol addiction.
Fortunately, various treatment options and resources for help are available for veterans struggling with substance use problems.
Veterans Drug and Alcohol Abuse Statistics
American veterans deal with various traumatic events in the combat zone and are more likely to deal with substance abuse problems than the general population. The statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), and National Veterans Foundation show that:
- More than 10 percent Of US veterans have a substance use disorder (SUD)
- 63 percent of those veterans who were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan who were diagnosed with SUD also met the criteria of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Over 40 percent of veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq were likely to abuse alcohol.
- Almost 3 percent of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan were likely to be abusing drugs (illicit drugs and prescription drugs)
Veterans take drugs and drink alcohol for a variety of reasons. Opioid painkillers often treat service-related physical injuries and chronic pain, leading to opioid dependency. Veterans with mental illnesses may resort to alcohol or drugs to ease the symptoms or cope with the trauma they dealt with while serving. The stress of readjusting to civilian life can also worsen veteran substance abuse.
The most commonly misused substance among veterans is alcohol, followed by opioids, prescription medications, marijuana, and cocaine.
Treatment Programs Available at Addiction Rehab Centers
Veterans coming home after military deployment and war may experience several hitches in readjusting to civilian life. One of the biggest challenges is coping with traumas they may have experienced while deployment, such as severe brain injury, witnessing a near-death situation, seeing the death of a peer, or sexual abuse.
However, various addiction treatment programs are available at rehab facilities for veterans. Some of these are described below:
Inpatient/Residential Rehab Program
Our inpatient and our residential treatment program are live-in options that provide veterans with supervised therapy and individualized treatment plans to help them conquer their addiction. These programs can run from a few weeks to months and are often followed by outpatient treatment. Depending on the program, patients may be monitored by qualified treatment providers 24/7.
Outpatient Rehab & Intensive Outpatient Programs
Our outpatient program allows users to attend therapy and get treatment on their own time, as patients are not required to reside at the medical center. Outpatient treatment programs may occur at addiction treatment centers, community health clinics, hospital-affiliated clinics, or other facilities. Some outpatient programs may also provide night and weekend sessions, making them a popular option for people whose personal, familial, or professional obligations prevent them from attending an inpatient rehabilitation facility.
Medication for alcohol and drug addiction enables veterans to withdraw from drugs or alcohol safely until the substances are no longer present in the body. It is usually the initial step in treating moderate to severe addiction. Sometimes medication-assisted therapy is necessary during drug detoxification to lessen the severity of withdrawal symptoms. When a patient is no longer physiologically reliant on addictive drugs, medications recommended during detox are frequently tapered down.
Addiction treatment to minimize substance abuse consists of group and individual therapy sessions. These therapies focus on teaching those in recovery the skills required to get and remain clean and how to handle various situations without resorting to drugs or alcohol. Behavioral therapy is the most commonly used kind of addiction treatment. A generic behavioral treatment approach has evolved into several practical methods. These are some examples:
- Individual Therapy, Group Therapy & Family Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
- Contingency Management (CM)
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Motivational Interviewing (MI)
- Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)
People come together to share their experiences with addiction, offer support to one another, and aid each other in staying on the road to recovery in 12-Step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), as well as in non-12-Step groups like Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART). Finding a support group you are comfortable with is vital because these groups come in various styles, forms, and focuses.
How does the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) help addiction recovery?
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) runs medical centers all over the country that can help veterans with SUDs and mental health disorders get effective, high-quality care. They offer different addiction treatment options for veterans, such as:
- Inpatient treatment programs
- Outpatient treatment programs
- Medical Detoxification services
- Medication-assisted treatments (MATs)
- Treatment for co-occurring disorders
- Individuals, groups, families, and marital counseling
Veterans can locate a VA medical center nearby them anywhere in the nation with the VA’s SUD locator. While the VA offers many veterans high-quality care, there are some circumstances where they cannot give a particular treatment due to limited accessibility or availability. A community care provider like American Addiction Centers (AAC) can be an alternative in those cases.
AAC has collaborated with the VA to provide veterans with private treatment at its Recovery First and Desert Hope centers. ACC and VA centers have a carefully cultivated alcohol and drug addiction recovery program called Salute to Recovery. It is a service for veterans dealing with addiction and other mental health concerns. Salute to Recovery allows veterans to get substance abuse treatment, often from other veterans, in a safe place surrounded by other veterans. Patients’ and staff members’ everyday experiences allow veterans to feel at ease and understood while dealing with their challenges.
Additional Resources for Veterans Dealing with Addiction and Mental Health Problems
Because addiction and mental health disorders are more common in veterans, it’s critical to understand what resources are available to assist veterans and their families. These tools help veterans, their family members, and close friends, who are most likely to be affected by the veteran’s addiction and mental health conditions. Seeking proper therapy is an excellent place to start, but here are some additional resources to offer further support to veterans and their family members:
Veterans Crisis Line
Treatment and Rehab Facilities
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- Veterans Health Administration
- Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program
- SMART Recovery
- Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Program Locator
Mental Health Resources
- Vet Center
- NAMI Veterans Resource Center
- National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH)
Alcohol Addiction Resources
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- Rethinking Drinking
Female Veteran Resources
- Women Veterans and Mental Health
- Women Veterans Call Center
Resources for Veterans and Family Members
- Supporting Military Families
- Operation Homefront