Medically Reviewed by Dr. Mohammed Saeed, MD.
Veterans have given so much of themselves in service to the United States. They have witnessed horrific war events, left loved ones and family behind while serving, lost friends in battle, and often faced abuse or neglect after coming home. Sadly, many return with both physical and mental battle scars, often appearing as substance use disorders. Fortunately, there are treatment programs and services designed specifically for those who have served or are on active duty.
Veterans and Substance Abuse Statistics
Veterans experience a disproportionately high rate of substance abuse issues. Research indicates that roughly 11% of veterans meet the criteria for substance use disorder, with men twice as likely to suffer it as women. Alcohol is the most abused substance, as research has shown that it is a major component of relaxing, socializing, and recreation for military personnel. Veterans are also more likely to abuse prescription drugs than the general population, with opioid use stemming from the need for pain management for those injured in combat.
Many times, alcohol or drug abuse is complicated by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In fact, veterans often turn to drugs or alcohol to help cope with PTSD symptoms. More than 20% of veterans with PTSD also have a substance use disorder, and 1 out of every 3 veterans looking for addiction treatment also has PTSD.
Substance Abuse Recovery Programs For Veterans
There are several practical resources available for veterans who are dealing with substance abuse and their families, including those provided directly by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA provides addiction therapy and counseling for individuals, families, and groups. VA helplines are available for all veterans and their friends and family members.
Treatment and Rehab Programs
The VA offers detox, outpatient, inpatient, residential, relapse prevention, substance abuse, and PTSD-specific services, and other programs for substance abuse. Substance Use Disorder treatment services are available at VA Medical Centers (VAMC) across the country.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is available to ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse for opioid or alcohol addictions. Nicotine replacement therapy is also available for stopping tobacco use.
Counseling and Therapy
Various counseling and therapy options are available, including short-term outpatient counseling, intensive outpatient treatment, marriage and family counseling, self-help groups, residential care, continuing care, and relapse prevention programs.
The VA has had positive results with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), and Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET). These techniques help veterans with substance use disorders by teaching them coping skills to manage the urge to drink or use drugs, refuse opportunities to use substances, and to use a problem-solving approach to achieve personal goals, stay motivated, and stay sober.
The VA also offers integrated therapy programs that combine substance use treatment with PTSD therapy. For PTSD, trauma-focused therapies like Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Prolonged Exposure (PE), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) are the most effective. Treatment for specific symptoms like pain, anger, or sleep problems may be added as well.
The VA also runs special programs for veterans with specific concerns (e.g. female veterans, returning combat veterans, homeless veterans), and support for PTSD and depression.
Visit the VA website or your local VA Community Resource and Referral Center to learn about all the programs and services available for veterans and their families.
Additional Treatment Resources For Veterans
In addition to behavioral and medical programs, veterans are encouraged to try self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). They are free of charge and available in most cities. Participation in AA/NA 12-step programs can be helpful as a part of a solid “aftercare” program.
There are many options for substance abuse recovery outside purely governmental or military sponsored organizations. Many treatment centers have programs dedicated to treating veterans and their unique needs, respecting their issues and recovery goals.
- Military OneSource is a free service that connects veterans and their families to a variety of resources, including those for mental health, substance abuse, and suicide.
- Vets4Warriors is a national 24/7-peer support network for veteran and military communities.
- Wounded Warrior Project is a veterans service organization that offers a variety of programs, services, and events for wounded veterans.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline provides free and confidential guidance for finding addiction or mental health services.
It is vital that veterans are made fully aware of every resource available to them regarding their mental health and issues with substance abuse. Mental health treatment should be made an integral aspect of every veteran’s care plan. Helping veterans deal with substance abuse issues is the least we can do for those who have served.
Why Choose Into Action Recovery
Into Action Recovery Centers takes pride in providing a high level of treatment and a holistic approach to recovery for those who suffer from addiction. Our comfortable facility is designed with the client’s needs foremost in mind. Our staff includes master’s level counselors, licensed chemical dependency counselors, 24-hour nursing professionals, a staff psychiatrist, a staff chef, and direct care personnel. Our counseling staff provides individualized treatment and care for our clients with an emphasis on tailoring treatment to the specific needs of each individual. Additionally, our staff provides family counseling, relapse prevention, life skills, and grief and trauma counseling.
Into Action Recovery Centers provides an abstinence-based program and all of our staff members have a strong understanding of the recovery process through personal experience. We are passionate about sharing the process involved in living a drug and alcohol-free life. We offer free aftercare for the men who complete our program and have a strong alumni network that remains active in the community. We also offer other amenities such as dietician-prepared meals, mindfulness-based meditation training, outings, and fitness training.