Medically Reviewed By: Ashley Levin
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.
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.
Visit the admissions page at Pacific Sands Recovery today to learn more about our 12-step recovery program.
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.
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.
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.