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Medically Reviewed By: Ashley Levin

Clinical Director

Veterans endure various emotional and physical challenges, sometimes continuing long after returning home. Unfortunately, these factors put them at risk for substance use disorders. Veterans facing addiction who need help are not alone. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we provide rehab for veterans living with drug or alcohol addiction.

Why Are Veterans at Risk for Substance Use Disorders?

Veterans often experience combat, separation from family, and severe injuries. The long-term effects of these experiences may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and chronic pain. These conditions can be life-altering and require proper treatment.

Understandably, veterans often find it challenging to reach out for help while adjusting to civilian life. They may attempt to numb their physical or psychological pain with substances. Consequently, this can lead to a substance use disorder (SUD). The prevalence of this issue is staggering, with over 1 million veterans needing help with addiction, the Psychological Services notes.

Factors Contributing to Addiction Risks for Veterans

Increased Addiction Risk for Veterans with PTSD

PTSD and substance use disorder often co-occur. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, two out of 10 veterans with PTSD also have SUD. While these disorders may occur independently, they are frequently linked.

How does PTSD increase the risk for addiction? As veterans experience PTSD symptoms, they might use drugs and alcohol to escape their memories of traumatic events. Without therapy, those living with PTSD are unable to address the root cause of the issue or develop proper coping tools. Their substance usage may increase over time, leading to addiction. Therefore, rehab for veterans is often combined with assessing PTSD-related symptoms.

Depression and Substance Abuse Among Veterans

According to a 2021 meta-analysis published by BMC Psychiatry, depression affects 23% of active-duty military and 20% of veterans. Chronic depression can develop in military personnel due to loneliness, increased stress, frequent relocations, and separation from their support system. Veterans with undiagnosed depression often find that they struggle with their mental health after they’ve been reunited with loved ones. Subsequently, they might be hesitant to seek help as they expect to feel better post-service.

Substance abuse is common among people who suffer from untreated depression. Alcohol is used most frequently since it is legal and accessible. Due to its prevalence, alcohol addiction treatment is offered to veterans at many drug recovery centers. However, illicit drugs may also be used to alter mood and cognition in those suffering from untreated depression.

Due to the link between depression and recurrent substance abuse, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is encouraged during rehab for veterans. This therapy involves sessions with a professional to target negative thought patterns and learn valuable coping tools.

Opioid Addiction and Veterans with Chronic Pain

Many veterans experience pain from injuries sustained in active duty. To combat this, doctors prescribe them pain management drugs. Depending on the type of injury they suffer, physicians may develop a treatment plan for chronic pain that includes opioids. However, opioid use comes with a risk of addiction.

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain due to the prevalence of opioid misuse among the general population. This led to a decrease in opioid prescriptions, but veterans are more likely to need pain treatment.

While the use of these medications is often temporary and avoided where possible, opioid addiction can still occur among veterans. Since opioids activate reward centers in our brains, they are highly addictive. Veterans, who live with a heightened risk of injury and mental health problems, are susceptible to opioid addiction.

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What is Dual Diagnosis?

The co-occurrence of both addiction and mental health disorders for veterans is referred to as dual diagnosis. Examples include PTSD with SUD or depression with alcoholism. Each condition intensifies the other.

To begin dual diagnosis treatment, a person will detox from substances first. Detoxification lets patients understand the initial psychological symptoms that may have contributed to substance use. During this process, therapy and counseling are imperative. Otherwise, the likelihood of relapse after detox increases significantly.

What Does Addiction Recovery Look like for Veterans?

Addiction recovery for veterans requires a deep understanding of their emotional and physical trauma. Physicians will consider the potential for dual diagnosis and recommend an individualized treatment plan. Rehab for veterans may include the following treatment options:

  • Inpatient or residential addiction recovery
  • Partial hospitalization drug treatment (PHP)
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
  • Outpatient recovery program

Inpatient Care or Residential Addiction Recovery

With this form of rehab, veterans in recovery reside at the treatment center to receive consistent care so that they can focus on their recovery. As a result, they can avoid triggers presented in everyday civilian life, lowering their risk of relapse. Veterans receive medication management, therapy, medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Last but not least, if needed, they get medical supervision during detox.

Partial Hospitalization Drug Treatment (PHP)

This treatment plan is a form of outpatient care that involves frequent attendance at the treatment center. Veterans undergo detox, medication management, therapy, partial supervision during treatment, and MAT if needed. This level of care is less intense than residential addiction recovery.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

IOP is most appropriate for veterans who may not require the level of support provided in residential or PHP recovery. However, they still need a higher level of support than typical outpatient programs. Depending on a patient’s needs, IOP is an excellent option to begin initial treatment or to transition out of a rehab facility. With this program, veterans undergo detox, counseling, group education, and MAT if necessary.

Outpatient Addiction Treatment

With outpatient treatment, veterans visit the treatment center for care while spending most of their time at home during recovery. They attend therapy sessions and have the opportunity to join mutual support groups. They can also receive medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Since substance use and mental health conditions often co-occur, a patient may need more intensive care before starting the outpatient program.

Get Quality Drug & Alcohol Rehab for Veterans in Orange County, CA

All veterans deserve to live free of addiction. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we provide the support you need to regain control of your life. Our experts are qualified in knowing what each veteran needs for a successful recovery.

Contact us today to start your recovery.


  • I would just like to share how Grateful I am with my experience through my addiction at this facility. I couldn’t possibly ask to be in such a “SAFE/COMFORTABLE” environment while receiving treatment for my addiction. I would just like to say Thank you sooo much to ALL the staff there from the Nurse’s to counselors and therapist all of you are a True Blessing in helping me through my journey of sobriety. I couldn’t feel more comfortable there on how they monitored my physical health and on dealing with my emotional health with there therapy sessions and groups I truly see them ALL as Family!

    Andrew N.
  • As a professional in the recovery field I have worked with many detox centers and none compare to The this one. Their staff is incredibly attentive and knowledgable regarding the needs of individuals seeking recovery from the very start. Their facility is welcoming and homey while remaining very luxe. I would recommend this facility to any loved one or friend looking to start down their journey of sobriety.

  • This place helped saved my life, and a great stepping stone to get my life on the right track. Was there first client under new management, caring staff and owners, comfortable place to get you on your feet in sobriety.

  • Great Staff. Comfortable Environment. Awesome place to Get Clean and Sober. Thank you guys for everything.


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      Ashley Levin

      Clinical Director

      Ashley always knew she wanted to be a therapist since she was 13 years old. Ashley believes in helping individuals and families by encouraging openness in communication, restoring trust to self and others, and setting boundaries. Ashley started as an Associate Marriage and Family therapist in 2016 and obtained her license in 2019. Ashley is trained in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Attachment Behavioral Therapist. Ashley has experience in working with children, adolescents, and adults in a variety of different settings. Ashley obtained her Bachelor’s in Psychology from California State University Long Beach in 2013 and received her Masters Degree in Psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy in 2015.