Veteran’s Comprehensive Guide to Drug Abuse

by | Last updated Aug 1, 2023 | Published on Jul 17, 2019 | Specialized | 0 comments

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Veteran’s Comprehensive Guide to Drug Abuse

Veterans’ addiction rates and numbers have continued to skyrocket in the past years. Many veterans turn to substances, like prescription drugs, illicit drugs or alcohol, to cope with a mental health disorder. These veterans tend to feel ashamed of their addiction. After all, there’s a huge stigma surrounding its usage. As a result, they’ll try to hide their addiction or deny that they have a problem.

To deal with this issue, it’s vital that there are more resources in the community. There should be more government-funded programs that will reach out to veterans. It’s also important for family and friends to recognize signs of addiction among veterans. For those who are too proud to get help, it’s crucial that their loved ones step in. They may want to stage an intervention to get through to the affected individual. Learning more about addiction will also come in handy.

But first, it’s important to understand the extent of the issue. This comprehensive guide will look at the factors concerning veteran drug or alcohol abuse. It will also look at the different types of treatment options available, as well as the statistics involved. You’ll likely be shocked by the numbers in this guide. After all, most people don’t realize how many veterans struggle with a substance use disorder or a co-occurring disorder. Get a better idea of how drug and alcohol addiction affects veterans in the America.

Common Causes of Substance Abuse Among Veterans

The rate of veterans with a substance use disorder is considerably higher than among the general population. 1 in 15 veterans in 2014 struggled with some type of addiction. The rate of which veterans engaged in alcohol or drug abuse depended on their date of deployment and their service era.

There are many reasons why incidences of substance abuse is higher among veterans. Understanding the reasoning behind the higher incidences of substance abuse in veterans can help various programs make better decisions. It can also help loved ones make more informed decisions as well. Some possible reasons include:

  • A higher than average incidence of PTSD and other mental health disorders and mental illness
  • Combat exposure leading to traumatic brain injuries
  • Combat injuries leading to chronic pain
  • A high incidence of substance abuse during active service
  • An altered mechanism designed to cope with stress and other high-stress activities
  • An inability to recognize and acknowledge the problem or a reluctance to seek help

Veterans struggling with mental health disorders are more likely to get addicted to drugs and alcohol. Those who are looking for an escape will be more likely to engage in substance abuse. It’s important to remember that active service can be very stressful.

Who Is More Likely to Develop a Substance Use Disorder?

Addiction does not discriminate at all. Veterans of all ages and from all military branches are just as susceptible to alcohol and drug addiction as other branches and ages. With that said, younger adults are more likely to get addicted to drugs. Older veterans are more likely to turn to alcohol.

25% of veterans between the ages of 18 and 25 struggle with some type of drug addiction. This is double the amount of veterans who are between the ages of 25 and 54. It’s also 5 times the rate of veterans who are over 55 years of age. In short, the younger that a veteran may be, the higher the likelihood that he or she will get hooked on drugs.

The reason why the younger adults are more likely to get addicted to drugs is because they don’t deal with stress as effectively. They may not have the proper tools needed to compartmentalize what they have witnessed and experienced.

Which Substances Do Veterans Commonly Misuse?

There’s quite a lot of debate on which drugs are the most commonly used about veterans. The truth is that there aren’t any figures available out there. No one knows exactly which drugs are most commonly used because many veterans are hesitant to report alcohol or drug use.

On top of this, many veterans abuse more than one substance at the same time. This is known as polydrug abuse. Polydrug abuse is significantly more dangerous than abusing just one substance. This is because the effects of both drugs are often magnified. The drug abusers also need to worry about dangerous drug interactions. They may also be more susceptible to drug overdoses.

In general, the consensus is that military veterans have access to all of the same types of drugs as civilians. When they return to civilian life, they are in the same environment as the rest of America. They’ll likely to turn to whatever substance is most prevalent in their region.

With that said, veterans are more likely to abuse opioids than the general population. This is quite troubling considering the fact that opioid addiction is on the rise. This prescription drug addiction epidemic is sweeping across the nation. Other than prescription opioids, other prescription medications are also likely candidate. Benzodiazepines, anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants are also often abused by veterans.

Alcohol abuse is also fairly common. Many veterans turn to alcohol to escape from reality. Binge drinking becomes a common occurrence. The best way to treat alcoholism is with help from an addiction treatment facility.

Opioids and Active Duty Military Personnel and Veterans

When deployed, the most commonly abused drug among active duty members is prescription opioids. Alcohol also comes in as a close favorite. This is because both of these substances are easily accessible when on active duty.

Since many active duty military members have straining jobs, they often deal with muscle pain, back pain and other types of bodily pain. Military physicians are usually quick to prescribe opioids and opiates to treat the pain. This is especially true in the case of chronic pain. Non-compliance to dosage, non-adherence to a schedule and overall misuse can lead to an opioid addiction.

When these military personnel return home, they also bring their addiction with them. Those who no longer have access to prescription opioids are most likely to start using heroin. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 80% of heroin users started off misusing and abusing prescription opioids. Heroin is an opioid. It affects brain chemistry in the same ways as prescription opioids.

It’s important to note that some veterans continue to gain access to prescription opioids through the VA. In fact, more and more veterans are getting opioids through the VA. In 2001, VA prescribed hydrocodone to 1,130 patients. By 2012, over 47,586 patients had a prescription. That’s an insane increase of 4,100%! Many veterans can easily gain access to prescription medications through legitimate routes. It’s safe to say prescription drug abuse is quite common among this demographic.

A Quick Look at Alcohol Abuse

To drown out flashbacks from the war, many veterans engage in binge drinking. It’s a form of self-medication. Unfortunately, heavy use can lead to alcohol dependence. This can be dangerous. Much like with opioids, alcohol is one of the more dangerous substances to get addicted to. Those who are dependent on alcohol will experience intense withdrawal symptoms when quitting. These withdrawal symptoms can turn deadly at any time.

Each veteran will lean towards a different type of alcohol. Some prefer beer, while others prefer hard liquor. It’s possible to get addicted to any type of liquor.

To showcase how prevalent alcohol abuse is among veterans, let’s look at some statistics. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 68% of veterans that served in the Vietnam War sought PTSD treatment and had an alcohol use problem. Older generations are more likely to abuse alcohol.

Alcohol abuse can also lead to many other health issues. It can be the primary cause for heart diseases, obesity and more. Those who have a drinking problem should seek help from an alcohol rehab right away. There’s no time to waste!

Military Vets and PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health disorder. Some people will develop this mental illness after either experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event in person. The life-threatening can include anything from combat during military service, a natural disaster, a sexual assault or more. Combat veterans are most likely to develop PTSD. A person can also develop PTSD after learning about a traumatic event that happened to loved ones. Some people may even develop PTSD from repeated exposure to aversive details of traumatic events. For example, first responders who see grisly details at the scene of a crime may develop PTSD.

It’s normal to feel upset or on edge after directly experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. It happens to everyone. However, with most people, these feelings will start to go away within a few weeks or a few months. They’ll learn how to manage their emotions and go about their daily lives.

Unfortunately, the opposite can be true for some people. Even after a few months, their condition can still continue to worsen. They may have a hard time accomplishing normal daily activities. This may include going to work or going to school. Those who have PTSD will need to get a professional diagnosis from a psychiatrist.

PTSD Rates Among Veterans

Since veterans are constantly exposed to traumatic situations and events, it’s no surprise that many of them develop PTSD. While only 7 to 8% of the general population may develop PTSD at some point in their lives, up to 30% of veterans may have PTSD depending on their service era. Let’s take a look at the statistics:

  • About 11% to 20% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD
  • Approximately 12% of veterans who served in the Gulf War develop PTSD
  • About 30% of Veterans who served in the Vietnam War have developed PTSD

Many factors may affect whether a veteran will develop PTSD. Their position and role in the army is one of the factors that may influence whether a person develops PTSD. It also depends on where their unit was stationed.

Sexual Trauma in the Military

Sexual harassment and assault is much more common in the military than you’d think. Sexual harassment and assault can happen to both men and women. According to Veterans Affair (VA) health care, about:

  • 23% of women veterans reported sexual assaults when in the military
  • 55% of women and 38% of men experienced sexual harassment when in the military

It’s important to note that it can difficult to get a good estimate on these numbers. Many veterans who experience sexual harassment or assault are scared to come forward. With that said, they may still develop PTSD from the sexual assault and harassment.

Another interesting factor to note is that while more female veterans report or experience sexual harassment and assault than men, there are more men in the military. Due to this reason, over half of all veterans who develop PTSD from sexual trauma are men. These veterans may turn to drugs to cope with the stress and guilt. Drug abuse and mental health issues often play off of one another.

Signs and Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Like with most people, most veterans who struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) will not readily admit to it. Most veterans will simply dismiss their feelings, or hide their frustrations from family and friends. Due to these reasons, PTSD can be incredibly hard to diagnose. At times, it may not be possible to diagnose it unless the patient wants help.

There are some ways to screen for PTSD. Those who suspect that a veteran is struggling with this disorder should look for symptoms that persist for at least a month. It can take some time for the symptoms to appear. Sometimes, signs and symptoms of PTSD may not appear until several months or even years after the traumatic event.

Knowing what signs and symptoms to look for is key. It’ll give loved ones some type of way to determine whether a loved one may be struggling with PTSD. With that said, a proper diagnosis can still be rather difficult. The disorder is characterized into three primary types of PTSD symptoms. Some people only experience one symptoms, while others may experience many at the same time. Here’s a breakdown of them.

Re-experiencing the traumatic event through flashbacks or nightmares

Many veterans will continue to re-experience the traumatic event even long after it has happened. The event was so traumatizing that it feels as if it was seared into their memories. They may not necessarily want to remember the event. It just happens. This primary symptoms can be broken down into smaller categories. The presence of one or more of the following counts as a symptom:

  • Spontaneous or cued memories of the traumatic events. Veterans may remember events for seemingly no reason and even if they don’t want to. They can’t seem to block the accounts of these events out of their mind. These negative memories are intrusive and will continue to persist.
  • Recurrent, distressing dreams that are related to the event. The content of the dream may have something to do with the traumatic event. In some cases, the effect of the dream reminds the person of the emotions associated with that event.
  • Flashbacks. The veteran may feel or act as if the event is happening all over again. If they were in the battlefield, they may start to see the events happening before their eyes.
  • Psychological reactions to anything that reminds them of the traumatic event. Veterans may easily feel stressed out or angry.

It’s difficult for many veterans to ‘snap out of it’ when they are experiencing the events again. Some veterans may have a difficult time differentiating between what’s real and what’s fiction. The replaying of the event may feel completely real to them. Watching a loved one continue to replay these events in their mind can be very heartbreaking. It’s vital that the affected individual gets help as soon as possible. Therapy and counseling can do wonders.

Having an emotional numbness and avoidance of activities, places and people that remind them of the event

Instead of recalling the traumatic event, some people will simply block it out. Their brain identifies the event as something traumatic and tries to erase all memories associated with it. In these situations, PTSD involves having an emotional numbness and avoidance to triggers. The presence of two or more of the following count as a symptom:

  • An inability to remember an important aspect of the event.
  • A diminished interact in once pleasurable activities. For example, an avid golfer may no longer want to step foot on a golf course. If they’re there, it’s obvious that they no longer have any interested in the sport.
  • Persistent and even distorted blame of self and others about the event. This can include what caused the event or the consequences that followed.
  • Exaggerated and persistent negative belief about either the world or oneself. Those who have PTSD may believe that no one can be trusted or that the world is a completely dangerous place.
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others. They may be unable to connect or bond with loved ones.
  • Persistent feelings of horror, anger, shame, fear o guilt.

In general, those who experience these symptoms have difficulties experiencing any type or form of positive emotions after the traumatic event. They may always feel glum and depressed. They may even be suicidal or have suicidal thoughts. Many veterans struggling with PTSD will feel as if they have no will to live. They no longer want to take part in anything in their own lives.

With that said, some veterans may keep these feelings to themselves. They may act interested in an activity despite not having any interest at all. They may act loving despite feeling detached or estranged from loved ones. In these situations, it can be difficult to make a proper diagnosis. The veteran may need to admit that they are struggling with these symptoms.

Having physical symptoms like, difficulties sleeping and concentrating, jumpiness, irritation and anger

PTSD often comes with physical symptoms. The physical symptoms are often a manifestation of what’s going on in their head. These symptoms tend to be a bit easier to recognize and diagnose. The presence of two or more of these signs should be a cause for concern:

  • Aggressive behavior or irritability stemming from anxiety and anger
  • An exaggerated startle response
  • Difficulties concentrating or staying focused
  • Difficulties falling asleep or having restless sleep
  • Hypervigilance
  • Self-destructive or reckless behavior

Many veterans with PTSD will feel as if they are always on edge. They may have difficulties relaxing or staying positive. They may also have sleep problems. Some have difficulties falling asleep while others complain about poor sleep. Even if they do end up falling asleep, they often have difficulties staying asleep or may feel restless.

Once again, therapy and counseling can help treat these symptoms. Depending on the intensity of these symptoms and how they affect one’s life, it’s also possible for the psychologist to prescribe medications that treat these symptoms. There are plenty of treatments that a veteran struggling with these symptoms can get the help he or she needs.

The Link Between Brain Chemistry, PTSD, and Substance Use Disorders

Brain chemistry plays a significant role in both PTSD and substance abuse. After a person experiences a traumatic, life-changing event, he or she will actually experience a drop in his or her endorphin levels. Endorphins are important neurotransmitters in the brain that help induce positive feelings. A significant drop in these neurochemical levels can lead to the development of depression and anxiety. With veterans struggling with PTSD, the endorphin levels never replenish. This leads to the emergence of other mental health disorders, like anxiety and depression.

As you can see, mental health disorders, like PTSD, and substance use disorders (SUDs) often come hand in hand. PTSD AND SUDs play off of one another. As a result, they exacerbate one another.

Substance abuse does the same thing in a way. When a person uses drugs and alcohol, their neurochemical levels can return to normal. Opioids, for example, will attach to opioid receptors in the central nervous system (CNS). This causes an influx of dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and other neurotransmitters. The substance abuser will feel normal once again if they were dealing with a mental health disorder, like PTSD.

However, once these substances leave the body. Substance abuse causes neurotransmitter levels to drop once again. Those who struggle with a mental health disorder will feel the effects even more than a normal individual.

Other Mental Disorders that Affect Veterans

A co-occurring disorder is when a mental disorder and a substance use disorder happens at the same time. This is also known as a dual diagnosis. PTSD is not the only mental health disorder that affects veterans. They are also susceptible to many other mental health issues, like:

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Personality Disorders
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

It’s important to note that many veterans are hesitant to seek help because of the stigma surrounding substance abuse and mental disorders. In fact, there appears to be a bigger stigma around substance abuse than mental illness. A co-occurring disorder can lead to health issues, like heart attacks and obesity.

Both the mental disorder and the substance use disorder should be treated at the same time. Many veterans are willing to get behavioral therapy or counseling for the mental health disorder. However, they may neglect the alcohol or drug addiction. Doing so can be detrimental to one’s health. Those who don’t receive treatment for both are much more likely to relapse. They’re also more likely to experience intense withdrawal symptoms.

To treat a dual diagnosis, patients may be prescribed medications. They undergo intense therapy and will receive integrated treatment at the rehabilitation centers. They will receive personalized treatment plans that help them deal with their specific mental health issue. For example, those struggling with PTSD are likely to try Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This behavioral therapy is ideal for treating trauma. Patients usually only need several treatments before they see results.

How Many Veterans with Mental Health Disorders Seek Treatment?

It’s important to note that only about 50% of veterans who need mental health treatment will seek. Of those that seek it, only 50% will receive adequate care. The rest will not receive enough treatment to adequate treatment to fully deal with the mental health disorder. This can be particularly troubling, as it can have a huge effect on their ability to get sober and to lead a healthy life.

Suicide Risk and Substance Abuse Among Veterans

Suicide rates are quite high among veterans. In 2014, 20 veterans committed suicide every day. Even though veterans only make up 8.5% of the American population, they account for 18% of all suicides. Male veterans are 19% more likely to commit suicide than the general population. On the other hand, female veterans are 2.5 times more likely to commit suicide. On average, the risk for suicide is 22% higher among veterans than non-veteran adults in America.

When polled in 2009, 5% of military personnel claimed that they considered suicide within the past year. A further 2.2% claimed that they attempted suicide. These numbers are steadily increasing. In 2005, for example, only 0.8% of military personnel attempted suicide. Many veterans who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan attempted suicide. quite obvious that this has become an actual problem that needs to be addressed.

“We know that of the 20 suicides a day that we reported last year, 14 are not under VA care. This is a national public health issue that requires a concerted, national approach.”

Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Dr. David J

While shocking, it’s fairly easy to believe these numbers. After all, untreated PTSD can cause many veterans to believe that there’s no other options. Veterans also deal with other co-occurring disorders that can cloud their minds.

The Relationship Between Substance Abuse and Suicide

Although it seems like an odd relationship, suicide and substance abuse often come hand in hand. Studies have shown that substance use often precedes suicidal behavior. Over 45% of suicide attempts involved alcohol or drug use. When in the army, 30% of suicide attempts are preceded with alcohol or drug abuse.

There are many explanations for this. For one, those who are under the influence tend to have fewer inhibitions. They are more likely to engage in risky or even dangerous behavior. In fact, another study found that 20% of high-risk behavior deaths that were not combat-related were due to drug or alcohol abuse.

With this in mind, it’s fair to say that veterans who struggle with a substance use disorder will be more likely to commit suicide. This could be because of a co-occurring mental health disorder. Or, it could be because of the effects of the substances. Some veterans have already made up their mind about committing suicide. They are simply turning to various substances to calm their nerves.

Homelessness and Substance Abuse

Nearly 40,056 veterans are homeless about every night. This number is quite startling. It shows that about 11% of the adult homeless population are veterans. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affair (VA), the majority consist of men. They’re single, live in urban areas and either struggle with one of the following:

  • A mental health disorder
  • Alcohol abuse or drug abuse
  • A co-occurring disorder

About 9% of these veterans are between the ages of 18 and 30. 41% of these veterans are between the ages of 31 and 50.

Age isn’t the only factor that comes into play. Like with the other issues mentioned above, the service era also plays a huge role. Nearly 50% of all veterans who are homeless served during the Vietnam era. Of these veterans, 66% of them served our country for at least three years, and another 33% of the veterans were stationed in a war zone.

Unfortunately, these numbers don’t end there. About 1.4 million veterans are at risk of becoming homeless. This is usually because they can’t access the resources they need. They also don’t have a strong support network at home.

Why Are So Many Veterans Homeless?

A good question to ponder is, ‘why are so many veterans homeless?’

Many different factors come into play. There’s a shortage of affordable housing in the U.S. In addition, many veterans have difficulties making a livable income. A large majority of veterans deal with mental health disorders, like PTSD. The problem is worsened by a lack of social and emotional support.

It’s important to note that many military positions are training are not always transferrable to the civilian life and workforce. Due to this reason, some veterans are at a disadvantage when it comes to looking for employment. They may not be able to find an employment opportunity that matches their skills.

The Relationship Between Homelessness and Substance Abuse

There’s a huge stereotype that the homeless population abuse alcohol and drugs. While this is not necessarily true, a lot of homeless people do indeed struggle with substance use disorders. This remains true for veterans who have become homeless. The substance abuse rate is much higher among the homeless than among the general population. About 70% of homeless veterans struggle with a substance use disorder and desperately need substance abuse treatment.

About 38% of the homeless population is dependent on alcohol. Another 26% of the homeless population abuses drugs. With that said, alcohol abuse tends to be more common among the older generations. The younger generation tends to turn to drugs, like cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin.

So, why does alcohol and drug addiction often come hand in hand with homeless? Substance abuse is often both a cause and a result of homelessness.

Those who struggle with a drug or alcohol addiction will often have difficulties maintaining a job or any relationship with family and friends. Their fixation on the substance of choice may cause them to lose their jobs. Veteran drug abuse often leads to the loss of jobs, home and support networks. The veterans will find themselves on the streets sooner or later.

Unfortunately, homeless can cause also lead to addiction. Those who are homeless may feel that they need to turn to substances to stay happy. They may turn to various drugs and alcohol to cope with their situation. Unfortunately, this can easily lead to alcohol or drug dependence. Those who develop an alcohol and drug dependence will experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit.

It’s also important to consider the type of people that the homeless are around. Many homeless people feel the need to use drugs or alcohol as a way of fitting into the homeless community. Drug and alcohol abuse are particularly prevalent among this demographic.

Get Substance Abuse Treatment through VA’s Programs

Regardless of the reason, it’s vital that these veterans get the addiction treatment they need. This may involve getting admitted to an alcohol or drug rehab center. It may also involve reaching out for help through one of VA’s programs. Each year, VA health care provides medical attention to about 150,000 homeless veterans.

Signs of Veteran Substance Abuse

Everyone will have a different experience with addiction. Different people experience different symptoms and signs of addiction. Knowing how to differentiate between alcohol or drug use and alcohol and drug dependence is key. Signs of an addiction include:

  • Intense cravings when trying to quit.
  • Mild to severe withdrawal symptoms. The intensity of the symptoms will vary from person to person. It all depends on the severity of the addiction.
  • A physical and psychological dependence to various substances.
  • Financial difficulties for affording the substance of choice. The cost of addiction can be fairly high.
  • A tolerance to each substance. Drug addicts will often need a larger and larger dose to achieve the same results as possible.
  • Social isolation. Drug abusers often want to isolate themselves from family and friends. They prefer spending time alone.
  • Neglect in other areas of life. This can be in regards to one’s schooling, to one’s work and to one’s familial responsibilities.

Knowing what signs and symptoms of a drug or alcohol addiction to look for is important. It’s important that veterans or their loved ones can identify the presence of a problem. There are many other signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for. Each person will respond and react differently to substance abuse.

Depending on the intensity of the addiction, various types of treatments will be deemed more appropriate than others. For example, those who need a more intense level of care should seek an inpatient rehab program.

How to Help a Veteran with Substance Abuse Issues

If you know a veteran who is struggling with substance abuse, it’s time to reach out to them. Talk to them with no judgment and help them get admitted to an alcohol or drug treatment center. The treatment centers can help them fight addiction and learn how to lead healthier and better lives.

There are many different types of programs available for veterans. With such a vast amount of research going into this industry, the government has already recognized the undeniable toll that addiction has on veterans. As a result, more government-funded and private-funded programs are popping up year after year.

In particular, Veterans Affairs (VA) is one of the longest standing associations around. They offer many different types of veteran drug and alcohol treatment, from inpatient programs to outpatient programs. VA offers access to renowned rehab centers all across America. They provide services like:

  • Family counseling to help families come together again and to mend strained relationships
  • One-on-one or group counseling for veterans to vent out their frustrations
  • PTSD treatment, like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to treat trauma
  • Medical detoxification for easing intense and possibly life-threatening withdrawal symptoms
  • Behavioral therapies for teaching veterans how to re-integrate back into society

Veterans can usually find these services at VA medical centers. If you’re trying to help a veteran get back on his or her feet, offer to drive them to the medical center. You can also look online to see what the admission process is. If you can simplify the process, the affected individual may be more likely to get addiction treatment.

It’s also a good idea to look at private-funded rehab centers as well. Many offer the same type of treatment. They’ll also accept health insurance, which many veterans have. The health insurance will cover the majority, if not all, of the cost. Private rehab centers may offer a more intimate veteran drug abuse program.

Health Insurance for Veterans

Veterans who are more interested in private-funded addiction treatments should consider the amount of coverage they have under their health insurance plan. This will be an important factor in determining the type of services they can afford. Keep in mind that not all substance abuse treatment centers accept all insurance providers.

Veterans who are currently employed may have healthcare insurance under their current employer. All health care insurance policies cover addiction treatment thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

Another common type of health insurance that veterans can rely on is TRICARE. TRICARE will usually offer coverage for the following services:

  • Medical detoxification for up to 7 days
  • Inpatient rehab, otherwise known as residential treatment, for up to 7 days
  • Acute inpatient psychiatric for anywhere from 30 to 45 days
  • Group therapy sessions up to 60 times
  • Outpatient family visits up to 15 times

There are some limitations with TRICARE. While it does cover a lot of the necessary treatment, it will only cover treatment plans for alcohol or drugs that use an evidence-based approach. These types of substance abuse treatments have been studied and proven to be effective numerous times.

Get a Better Understanding for TRICARE

TRICARE is also known as veterans’ health care insurance. This insurance policy is available to both active duty military personnel and veterans. The best part about TRICARE is that the policy extends to the family members of active duty military personnel and veterans.

If you’re trying to help a veteran with an alcohol or drug addiction, you should try to get them covered under TRICARE. To be eligible for TRICARE, the affected individual must either be:

  • A retired active-duty member
  • A retired member of the National Guard or the reserves and be at least 60 years of age or older
  • Ex-military personnel who were awarded the Medal of Honor

As mentioned above, these benefits also extend to the spouse or the child of the eligible veteran. They will also extend to any surviving spouse of enlisted military personnel who died on active duty. Children who are single and under the age of 21 or children who are under the age of 23 and still attending college are also eligible. The health care insurance policy will also cover a divorced spouse of a veteran who has served in the military for over 20 years. This is provided that the marriage lasted at least 15 of these 20 years.

Other than that, TRICARE benefits expire once a child exceeds the age limit or three years after the death of an active-duty service member. The benefits also expire for the spouse one year after the divorce.

Most Recommended Types of Addiction Treatment for Veterans

So, what kind of treatment plans can veterans recommend? For the most part, the treatment programs are similar to the treatment programs for civilians. To help veterans get back on the right track and become sober, most alcohol and drug rehab centers will offer the following services:

  • Behavioral modification therapy for identifying triggers. Patients also learn how to respond better to different situations. Common behavioral therapies include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Motivational Interviewing (MI).
  • Group therapy for building a strong social network. Bonding with others in similar situations can help drug addicts feel less alone. This can include a program like Alcoholics Anonymous or programs specifically designed for Veterans.
  • Medical detoxification for treating all types of addictions. This service is absolutely necessary for some addictions, like alcohol and opioids. The withdrawal symptoms can turn deadly at a moment’s notice. Acamprosate works wonderfully well for alcohol addiction.
  • Nutritional therapy for learning how to prepare and eat healthier and more nutritious meals. Some rehab centers even offer cooking classes.
  • One-on-one counseling to focus on self-improvement. This includes how to be a better person. Patients learn how to figure out what their own flaws are, and they figure out different ways that they can improve.
  • Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT) to treat an opioid addiction. Common options include methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. Different medications come with unique advantages and disadvantages.
  • Physical fitness for staying fit. Exercise can also help keep a person sober.

Each patient will try out different combinations of treatments to find out what works best for them. Some patients respond better to certain therapies and counseling than others. Finding the right combination will help speed up the addiction recovery process.

Substance Abuse Is Common Among Veterans — Don’t Be Scared to Reach Out to Get the Help You Need!

A huge percent of veterans struggle with some form of substance abuse, whether it be alcohol or drug addiction. If you or someone you know is struggling, it’s time to reach out to the many government-funded and private-funded programs available for help. You’ll be surprised at the vast amount of resources that are available for veterans. Those who are seeking treatment should have no trouble finding help. There’s even a veterans crisis line that’s available all hours of the day. This crisis line can help answer questions regarding veterans and substance abuse.

The staff at Amethyst Recovery are fully aware of the different issues that veterans struggle with. Many of our patients are veterans, so we know exactly where you’re coming from. We know what types of obstacles might be in your way or might be in the way of a veteran that you know. As a result, we can offer a lot of guidance in this area. We can point veterans towards the right resources and help them create a personalized treatment plan at our facility.

Don’t hesitate to contact us by calling 855.500.3609 or emailing us through our online contact form. We’re here 24/7 to answer any questions or inquiries you may have. We’ll walk you through the treatment process and what you can expect with addiction recovery. Our goal is to help you transition from addiction to recovery as smoothly and easily as possible. Let us help you get back on the right track!

Written by: Justin Kunst

Written by: Justin Kunst

As a member of the Amethyst Recovery Center marketing team, Justin Kunst dedicated his time to curating powerful content that would reach and impact individuals and families who are struggling with substance abuse.


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As many people know, addiction doesn’t discriminate; however, some groups are more likely to be affected than others. The LGBTQ+ community is one of these groups, and drug abuse and addiction among these individuals is a huge problem.  There are many reasons why the...

Bullying and Substance Abuse

There’s a strong link between bullying and substance abuse. Bullied victims are much more likely to abuse different types of substances than those who haven’t been bullied. Bullying can take place anywhere. It can also happen to anyone. With that said, this type of...

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Related Articles

Native Americans & The Opioid Epidemic
Native Americans & The Opioid Epidemic

On average, 250 Americans die every day from a drug overdose. Opioid misuse is a public health crisis that has hit the United States, but for many Native Americans and Alaska Natives, it's more than just a headline. This article will explain why Native American...

read more
The LGBTQ Community and Substance Abuse
The LGBTQ Community and Substance Abuse

As many people know, addiction doesn’t discriminate; however, some groups are more likely to be affected than others. The LGBTQ+ community is one of these groups, and drug abuse and addiction among these individuals is a huge problem.  There are many reasons why the...

read more
Bullying and Substance Abuse
Bullying and Substance Abuse

There’s a strong link between bullying and substance abuse. Bullied victims are much more likely to abuse different types of substances than those who haven’t been bullied. Bullying can take place anywhere. It can also happen to anyone. With that said, this type of...

read more

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