Drug and alcohol addiction treatment for veterans is of the utmost importance. People who served in the military have very different experiences from the rest of the population. They are confronted with a wide range of physical, emotional, and mental health issues which can affect them for the rest of their lives. Without help from professionals in a veteran rehab center, they would be forced to manage their addictions alone.
Among the most serious issues that veterans face are post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders – two conditions that are often linked. If you or a loved one was a member of the military and you’re struggling with substance abuse, you need to reach out to a veteran rehab center.
Why Veterans Use Drugs and Alcohol
More than ten percent of military veterans are diagnosed with substance abuse disorders and this rate is higher than in the civilian population. Choosing to serve in the United States military is a courageous thing to do. While serving makes a positive difference in the lives of millions of people, many members find it difficult to cope with the challenges.
This is nothing to be ashamed about if you left active service decades ago. Moving away from your family and friends and adapting to a different lifestyle can be daunting. Deployment puts you in highly stressful situations that can make alcohol, prescription drugs or illicit substances seem attractive.
To further indicate how serious the problem is, more than a quarter of military deaths are attributed to substance abuse. While the use of illegal drugs is said to be at a historic low, the use of alcohol and prescription opioids continues to be of major concern. In 2008, 47 percent of people on active duty admitted to binge drinking.
Military personnel who have been in combat are especially vulnerable to substance abuse since they face extremely stressful situations involving deadly weapons. Substance use among veterans can be complex, but contributing factors include:
- Mental health issues
- The trauma of combat
- The prescription of opioids for pain
Substance Use Trends in the Military
Substance abuse problems can begin while individuals are actively serving and there are several reasons for this. Putting one’s life on the line is significant. Some service members turn to alcohol or drugs to numb their emotions, relieve stress or provide them with a feeling of escape.
Alcohol is also consumed socially. Members of the military drink for leisure, to celebrate events, and promote camaraderie. Since it’s easy and affordable to access alcohol on military bases, it’s not surprising that alcohol use is high.
The easy availability of prescription opioids can also contributes to substance abuse. Many veterans are prescribed opioids for the relief of pain and some have long-term prescriptions. While these drugs are often very effective, they are also highly addictive. Before long, the individual feels they have no control over their use.
At first, alcohol and other substances increase the production of dopamine in the brain and it makes the individual feel good temporarily. However, the more the person uses, the more likely it is that dependence and addiction will occur. Chronic substance abuse can lead to physical dependency, which is when the brain and body get so used to a substance that the individual feels strange or even ill without it.
They only feel normal when they’ve consumed alcohol or used drugs. Otherwise, they experience uncomfortable withdrawal effects. This reinforces their continued usage of drugs or alcohol. Detox, rehab and aftercare support are usually needed to help individual struggling with addiction attain and maintain sobriety.
Drug Use After Leaving the Military
Veterans who return home from combat can face a number of issues when trying to re-adjust to civilian life. They may have suffered a serious injury in combat or witnessed the death of a colleague. Many also have mental health problems but opt not to seek help because of the stigma attached to such conditions. Instead, they use drugs and/or alcohol to reduce their symptoms.
This disorder can occur in people who have been exposed to severe physical, mental, and/or emotional trauma. It can result in anxiety, depression, rage, panic, and suicidal ideations. These symptoms can be very hard to handle especially if the individual does not seek professional help.
Approximately 20 percent of veterans who seek treatment for PTSD also have a substance use disorder. This may be because they use drugs or alcohol as a distraction or a way to manage their PTSD symptoms. PTSD is especially common in those who served in the Marine Corps and Army and were involved in moderate-to-severe combat.
In addition, veterans who have PTSD may also be prescribed more opioids and higher doses of opioids than those who don’t have this disorder. To complicate matters, substance abuse problems can make PTSD symptoms worse. That’s why alcohol addiction treatment for veterans must be accompanied by treatment of PTSD and other co-occurring disorders.
While substances can temporarily numb symptoms of PTSD, over time they can actually make them worse. Specialized addiction treatment for veterans can help to end the cycle of PTSD and substance abuse.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Traumatic brain injuries can also contribute to substance abuse by veterans. These injuries occur when the brain receives a sudden blow, bump, or jolt. Members of the military are more likely to suffer a TBI than civilians and these injuries can significantly increase the risk of alcohol or drug abuse. Symptoms of TBI include memory loss, sleep disturbances, agitation, headaches, problems focusing, and seizures.
Veterans who have brain injuries are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and the likelihood increases with the severity of the injury. Since TBIs can impair an individual’s judgment and ability to control their impulses, this can make veterans more likely to become addicted to substances. To compound matters, almost half of all veterans who suffer a TBI experience pain, and opioids are often prescribed for severe pain.
The Case of Vietnam Veterans
Since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, there has been lots of concern about drug and alcohol addiction among those veterans. While any war can result in PTSD and substance abuse, the Vietnam veterans had a particularly hard time when they returned home. Unlike World War II vets who were seen as heroes, those who returned from Vietnam were shunned and ridiculed.
Not only did they find it hard to reintegrate into society but they found it difficult to find jobs since their military skills were of little use. Many became disillusioned and they sought solace in drugs and alcohol. PTSD is believed to have been a major contributor to this situation.
However, the condition was not well understood at the time and there were few resources to help veterans battling such mental health issues. Many of these individuals continue to experience the effects of the trauma they faced more than 45 years ago. Fortunately, there are several addiction treatment options available today for veterans, including those who fought in Vietnam. If you are a war vet who is still finding it difficult to cope, you should seek professional help. It is never too late to start working on improving your mental health.
Why Addiction Treatment for Veterans Is so Important
Veterans deserve to live happy, healthy lives. In order to do so, they need to be treated for all the mental health issues they’re facing. If you have a substance use disorder along with symptoms of other mental illness, you need to enter a veteran rehab center that can address both sets of concerns. This is known as dual diagnosis treatment or co-occurring disorder treatment.
Co-occurring mental health disorders can contribute to substance abuse or result from substance abuse. It’s not always clear which condition developed first but both need to be addressed at the same time to increase the likelihood of long-term sobriety. During treatment, you will learn about how each condition affects the other and how you can manage them going forward. If only your addiction is treated during rehab, your substance use could continue once you leave the facility.
If mental health problems and substance use disorders go untreated, veterans can develop or exacerbate several other issues. These include relationship problems, financial difficulties, and physical health challenges. Among Vietnam vets, homelessness is a major problem and this can prove to be a barrier to substance abuse treatment.
Given all the issues that veterans can experience as a result of substance use, it’s important that you reach out to an addiction professional for an assessment. Whether you served in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, it’s not too late to seek help. With the right support, you can fight your addiction, improve your mental health, and take charge of your life. While self-medication may seem like an easy way out, it can lead to further harm.
Signs It’s Time to Get Help with Alcohol or Drug Use
The sooner you can identify that you or someone you love has a problem with substance use, the sooner you can get the help you need. There are both physical and behavioral signs of addiction. Physical signs include:
- Sudden weight loss
- Physical symptoms of withdrawal
- Changes in appearance
- Glazed or bloodshot eyes
- Changes in sleep patterns
Meanwhile, behavioral indicators include:
- Social isolation
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
- An inability to quit drinking or using drugs
- Continued drinking or drug use even in the face of legal or financial problems
Paying for Rehab As a Veteran
There are a number of ways in which former members of the armed forces can pay for rehab. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides eligible vets with treatment for mental and substance use disorders. Through a network of VA hospitals, you may be able to benefit from inpatient or outpatient treatment.
Alternatively, TRICARE benefits may cover addiction recovery services if there is prior authorization and you’re deemed to have a medical or psychological need. You may be covered for up to seven days of detox, 21 days of inpatient rehab, and 30 to 45 days of acute inpatient care. A maximum of 60 group therapy sessions and 15 outpatient family sessions may also be included. However, the extent of coverage depends on the facility, the plan you have, and other variables.
If you have access to private insurance, you may have access to an even wider range of treatment providers. Your policy should cover some type of substance abuse treatment and in some cases, you may even have coverage for out-of-state rehab. If you’d like to benefit from Circle of Hope’s detox and rehab service, contact us and we’ll verify your insurance benefits. The process is quick and easy and our staff will gladly help you so there’s no need to put it off.
Get Back on Your Feet with Help from Circle of Hope
Addiction is a problem for many veterans but it’s important to know that there is help available. There’s no need to try to handle your mental health challenges on your own. If you’ve returned from military service and you’re finding it difficult to control your drug or alcohol use, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Circle of Hope is one of the leading veterans’ addiction treatment centers in California. Our luxury addiction facility provides individual attention to each client in an effort to help them achieve long-term sobriety and we are sensitive to the needs of people who have been deployed.
If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, we can provide evidence-based treatment that’s customized to your needs. We offer a full continuum of care that includes medically supervised detox, inpatient treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, and aftercare. Clients benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, individual and group counseling, and other forms of treatment.
We don’t just treat addiction. We also treat co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder. You’re guaranteed to get a treatment plan that’s specifically tailored to your needs. Contact us today to learn more about what we offer at our state-licensed facility and find out if this is the right treatment center for you or your loved one. Our staff members are standing by to assist you.