There is a variety of veteran addiction assistance available to assist vets suffering from alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) or substance use disorder (drug addiction).
Grappling with addiction can be especially challenging for military veterans. Often, substance use disorder is rooted in emotional trauma. Many veterans transitioning from service to civilian life are confronted with new battles to fight, sometimes using addictive substances as a coping mechanism.
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Veterans who have served in active combat zones may also suffer from mental health conditions like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), depression, or anxiety co-occurring with addiction. Studies show that 18% of all combat veterans in the U.S. suffer from PTSD.
Fortunately, there is ample help at hand for all ex-service members looking to engage in addiction treatment.
Veterans and Substance Abuse
Among ex-service members who engage with the healthcare system, 11% have substance use disorder. Veterans most commonly abuse alcohol and nicotine, per the same study.
Many veterans also abuse opioid painkillers and other prescription medications like benzodiazepines.
How serious is the issue of veterans and substance abuse, then?
To highlight the scope of the problem of veterans and addiction, some statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA):
- Over 20% of veterans with PTSD have a co-occurring substance use disorder.
- 30% of veterans engaging with substance abuse treatment also meet the criteria for PTSD.
- 60% of veterans who smoke cigarettes have PTSD compared to just 30% of veterans without a PTSD diagnosis.
- Many war veterans diagnosed with PTSD and alcohol use disorder engage in binge drinking. This occurs when a man consumed more than 5 standard drinks within 2 hours, or a woman consumes 4 standard drinks in the same timeframe.
- 10% of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have a problem with alcohol or drugs.
With veterans especially prone to developing addictions, what can be done to help them?
Veteran Substance Abuse Treatment
Veterans ready to engage with treatment for an addiction have more options than most civilians
As well as the traditional choice between inpatient and outpatient rehab, there is also a dedicated veterans substance abuse program available via the VA. This can be beneficial for ex-service members unable to meet the costs of treatment out of pocket.
Treatment through the VA offers access to the following:
- Individual counseling
- Group counseling
- Family counseling
- Group therapy
- PTSD therapy
- Inpatient rehab
- Outpatient rehab
- Medication-assisted treatment
Despite offering a wide range of services, it can take some time to arrange treatment through the VA.
For more severe addictions and mental health conditions, inpatient treatment is often advisable, and many vets seek treatment outside of the VA.
What can you expect if you are a veteran considering treatment for substance use disorder?
Drug Addiction Treatment
Drug addiction treatment for veterans often involves medication-assisted treatment to help mitigate the intensity of cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Veterans diagnosed with PTSD are frequently prescribed anxiety medications like benzodiazepines. Benzos have a strong potential for abuse and addiction.
Many veterans who do not have PTSD develop addictions to opioid painkillers initially prescribed to alleviate pain from combat-related issues.
Additionally, veterans have often prescribed sedatives like Lunesta and Ambien.
Ex-service members taking any of these substances may develop physical dependence as tolerance builds and more of the substance is required to deliver the same effects. Over time, full-blown addiction can set in. Substance use disorder (the clinical descriptor for addiction) is characterized by the compulsive use of addictive substances regardless of adverse outcomes.
To mitigate drug abuse among veterans, advocates are campaigning for more rigid regulations governing how long potentially addictive medications can be prescribed.
MAT can be highly effective for the treatment of both alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder. Medication-assisted treatment is optimized when delivered in combination with behavioral interventions like psychotherapy and counseling.
Many veterans with PTSD also benefit strongly from cognitive behavioral therapy.
Others find that EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) helps to alleviate some of the symptoms of PTSD.
Treatment plans for veterans should seeking to combat drug addiction should always be highly personalized. How about when it comes to alcoholism among ex-service members, then?
Help for Alcoholic Veterans
Alcohol abuse is commonplace among members of the military in active duty. Regrettably, unhealthy and harmful patterns of drinking can continue after military service ends.
This longitudinal study shows that 10% of first-time alcohol users in the military go on to develop alcohol use disorder.
One of the primary risk factors for alcohol abuse among military personnel is combat exposure. This study showed that 25% of service members exposed to threats or atrocities continued misusing alcohol 4 months after deployment. Among that percentage, 12% developed behavioral issues related to alcohol abuse.
The VA provides alcohol addiction treatment for veterans for all eligible ex-service members. Treatment has the following goals:
Imparting relapse prevention and management skills.
Encouraging veterans to change negative behaviors.
Connecting veterans with peer-support groups like Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Furthering the understanding of addiction among family members.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also delivers evidence-based treatment at local offices of the VA. Contact your VA healthcare provider or call the VA information hotline at 1.800.827.1000.
Veterans are also free to pursue treatment for addiction and mental health issues outside the VA. To shortcut that process, consider engaging with treatment here at Renaissance.
Renaissance Recovery’s Addiction Treatment
Here at Renaissance Recovery, we specialize in the outpatient treatment of the following conditions:
- Substance use disorders
- Alcohol use disorders
- Mental health disorders
- Co-occurring disorders
Suppose you’re a veteran seeking to address addiction and/or mental health issues. In that case, we provide structured programs giving you access to the same services and therapies you would find in residential rehab, but without the restrictions or the cost. We are happy to accept insurance for treatment.
For those requiring more support than a traditional outpatient program delivers, we offer more intensive programming, including:
- IOPs: Our intensive outpatient programs offer up to 15 hours of therapy per week
- PHPs: Our partial hospitalization programs offer up to 35 hours of therapy per week
We can help you unpack the physical and psychological components of addiction through the following array of research-backed treatments:
- Psychotherapy (CBT or DBT, both proven effective for the treatment of addictions and mental health conditions)
- Individual counseling
- Group counseling
- MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
- Family therapy
To provide you with a whole-body approach to recovery, we also offer access to a range of holistic therapies to supplement the above treatments.
Once you complete your treatment program, you will either step down to a less intensive form of treatment or re-enter daily living with a robust aftercare plan in place.
Don’t suffer in silence when there is help readily available. Take the first vital step by reaching out to admissions today at 866.330.9449.