Addiction treatment for veterans

Prescription drug abuse and addiction are currently the most common drug problems among veterans. Sadly, only a small percentage of them seek addiction help. What’s required from a program in the treatment of veterans? Find out here.

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Veterans and addiction treatment

Members of the armed forces may have the hardest job in the country. They’re constantly surrounded by violence and forced to spend a great deal of time away from their homes and families. Many veterans come home suffering from a variety of combat-induced mental disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety disorder.

While the number of veterans with a substance abuse problem has dropped drastically since 1980, substance abuse and addiction continues to be a problem among both active members of the military as well as our nation’s veterans. Prescription drug misuse and abuse are currently the most common drug problems among veterans. According to a recent study, over 11% of military personnel reported misusing prescription drugs like painkillers. This is over twice that of the civilian population.

What’s more disturbing is the fact that only a very small percentage of veterans actually seek help for addiction treatment. Many types of medical and mental health problems tend to be brushed off by veterans, and addiction treatment is no exception. Addiction is may be thought of as a weakness by many veterans, causing them to resist treatment.

Addiction treatment for veterans should strongly consider offering some very specific services – listed below – in order to appeal to and be effective for this particular demographic.

  • Peer group therapy, to provide support from individuals with similar experiences
  • Dual-diagnosis treatment, for veterans also diagnosed with combat-induced disorders
  • Handicap accessibility, for veterans who were injured or disabled while serving
  • Stress and anger management
  • Family participation, such as family counseling and education

Veteran drug addiction treatment

Like other types of addiction treatment, veteran addiction treatment should be thought of as a long-term process. It typically consists of four main steps.

1. Screening and assessment

Veterans should be properly screened before participating in a veteran addiction treatment program. During a substance abuse screening, a medical professional will ask a veteran several questions about their history and drug use. Based on the answers given, the medical professional will be able to confirm an addiction and determine the severity of it. During the assessment, a medical professional will also put together an addiction treatment care plan.

2. Detox

Withdrawal in a dedicated detox facility under the supervision of medical professionals is typically recommended. This allows doctors and nurses to help veterans be more comfortable during this period, and attend to them in case of emergency. Going through withdrawal in a detox center also helps drastically reduce the chances of a relapse.

3. Treatment

Veterans typically have the choice between inpatient and outpatient veteran addiction treatment programs. Treatment method used during both of these types of treatment include individual behavior therapy, group counseling, and family therapy. Medications are also sometimes used to help alleviate cravings for or pleasure derived from using drugs or alcohol.

4. Aftercare

Staying sober after completing a veteran addiction treatment program is often somewhat difficult. Addiction treatment aftercare programs generally offer continuing outpatient therapy sessions as well as general support for recovering addicts. An aftercare plan may also include self-help group meetings, vocational counseling, and a stay in a transitional living facility.

Veteran addiction treatment barriers

Going into and staying in an addiction treatment program is not usually easy for most veterans. In order to facilitate a successful recovery, veterans will often need to overcome several obstacles. Some commonly cited veteran addiction treatment barriers may include

  • Belief that addiction equates to weakness
  • Inability to find a suitable treatment program
  • Lack of health insurance
  • Inability to pay for addiction treatment or insurance co-pays

Addicted veterans

Addicted veterans should never be afraid or hesitant to ask for help with overcoming an addiction. Despite what some may believe, an addiction is not a weakness, but a treatable mental health condition.

Addicted veterans can turn to their physicians or psychologists when they need help with an addiction. These medical professionals can typically screen for and assess an addiction, as well as refer addicted veterans to suitable addiction treatment programs.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), however, is one of the best places for addicted veterans to turn to when they need addiction treatment. Most veterans are eligible for VA Health Benefits, which typically help cover the cost of mental health services, including addiction treatment. Any veteran interested in applying for these benefits can do so online, over the phone, or by visiting the nearest VA medical center. Some of these VA medical centers also offer addiction treatment that is designed specifically for veterans.

Veteran addiction questions

Living with an addiction is often frustrating, depressing, and confusing. On one hand, no one wants to be an addict. On the other, many addicts find it near impossible to quit using drugs or drinking. However, it’s important to realize that help is available, and no one has to live with an addiction. Help for addicted veterans is available.

Do you or a loved one suffer from veteran addiction? Questions and concerns about addiction and treatment can be left below. We do our best to answer all questions as quickly as possible and help our readers get started on the road to recovery.

Resources: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Health Benefits

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Applying for VA Care: Veteran Eligibility

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Summary of VA Treatment Programs for Substance Use Problems

SAMHSA: Veterans and Military Families

NIH: Substance Abuse Among Military Veterans and Their Families

Counseling Addicted Veterans: What to Know and How to Help


About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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