01 Feb Addiction Treatment for Veterans and Active Duty Military
Addiction affects all walks of life, even the men and women who bravely serve our country. As a result of the combination of combat trauma, physical pain from injuries, and a disconnect from civilian life, some veterans and active-duty military personnel suffer from addiction.
Sadly, many veterans are unable or unwilling to ask for help out of fear of discrimination and the culture of toughness they have become accustomed to. However, Delray Beach addiction treatment programs for veterans can provide individuals with the tools they need to recover.
Depending on the individual’s needs, treatment may be inpatient or outpatient. Veteran’s substance abuse treatment programs include therapies that help individuals recover from drug and alcohol cravings, as well as trauma-related issues such as PTSD. Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at what goes into addiction treatment for veterans.
What Causes Addiction in Veterans and Active Duty Military?
Active military and veterans are at the greatest risk of substance abuse and addiction, especially those with multiple deployments, combat exposure, injuries, and trauma. It is common for veterans to develop a dependence on opioid pain medication after experiencing an injury from combat. However, many other factors play a role in the connection between veterans and addiction.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stems from exposure to a traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD may include re-experiencing the event, avoidance of triggers, and hyper-arousal.
Unfortunately, PTSD is something that many veterans deal with on a daily basis, due to their exposure to trauma during deployment and combat. Even worse, PTSD is known as a risk factor for addiction, as many veterans turn to substances to cope with their symptoms.
For example, research has shown that PTSD is more common among veterans returning from the Iraq war than the general population. 11.8% of individuals displayed symptoms of PTSD soon after deployment and 16.7% reported experiencing PTSD at 6 months post-deployment, compared to 3.5% of the general population.
Unfortunately, sexual assault is a common trauma that many individuals experience. This has been no exception to female veterans, who have experienced sexual assault at a rate of 10% to 30%. Sexual assault is known to cause several types of extreme pain, including PTSD and substance abuse.
Sadly, the culture associated with our military is centered around being strong and brave. Because of this, many individuals feel that they will be perceived as weak if they ask for help after being assaulted, causing them to simply put up with the distress. As a result, symptoms begin to worsen over time, leading many military men and women to use drugs or alcohol to relieve the emotional pain.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as a traumatically induced disruption of brain functioning. The symptoms of a TBI include difficulties concentrating, recalling new information, dizziness, headaches, tiredness, sleep problems, and mood swings.
While substance use is known to increase the likelihood of TBI, the reverse is also true for active-duty combatants. TBIs are known to increase the odds of an individual experiencing issues with control and decision-making. Unfortunately, experiencing issues in this area of the brain is associated with the development of addiction.
Alcohol Use During and After Deployment
The workplace culture associated with the military creates the perfect storm for substance abuse and addiction. Because of the hard work and trauma that men and women in the military experience, heavy drinking and binge drinking are common and even encouraged in some cases. While the military is actively trying to change this culture, issues with alcoholism and substance abuse continue to occur.
Returning to Civilian Life
It is common for a soldier to be in combat one day, and released back into civilian life the next. This often leaves them without a job, lacking resources for mental health, and unsure of what to do next.
When individuals enter the military, they tend to spend years and even decades assimilating into the military culture. Then, out of nowhere, they are sent home to shift back into a less structured environment. This may lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, which are major risk factors for addiction and alcoholism.
Addiction Treatment Approaches for Veterans
While dealing with addiction and the after-effects of military life is difficult, recovery is possible. Delray Beach addiction treatment programs for veterans ensure that the men and women who served our country receive the treatment they need.
During drug and alcohol treatment for veterans, patients will receive medical treatment, counseling, therapy, and medications for co-occurring disorders such as PTSD.
Let’s take a look at the therapies and medications most commonly used in Delray Beach addiction treatment programs for active-duty personnel and military veterans.
There are many therapies utilized in the treatment of veteran addiction, however, the main types of therapy for veterans include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on changing negative thoughts and behaviors into positive ones.
- 12-step meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These meetings offer a step-by-step approach to recovery from addiction that requires accepting you have a problem, surrendering to a higher power, and working with a sponsor.
- Prolonged exposure therapy is utilized to help patients re-experience and engage with the reminders or cues of their trauma, rather than avoiding them. It is done in a safe way and a safe place. This form of therapy has been shown to reduce PTSD symptoms
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy option intended for PTSD treatment. EMDR involves re-experiencing unpleasant memories with the addition of eye movement exercises that help to reduce anxiety.
In addition to these counseling modalities, treatment may include rapid resolution therapy, motivational interviewing, readiness-to-change counseling, cognitive processing therapy, mindfulness therapy, health promotion, family systems therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and seeking safety counseling.
Several medications are used to treat alcoholism in veterans. They include the following:
- Naltrexone (Vivitrol) works to end the desire for alcohol consumption by blocking the pleasant or euphoric effects of alcohol.
- Disulfiram (Antabuse) stops the process of metabolizing alcohol, making individuals feel very ill if they drink it.
- Acamprosate (Campral) is intended to reduce cravings, as well as reduce the unpleasant effects of alcohol withdrawal.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for addiction to opioids like heroin or morphine include the following medications:
- Buprenorphine + naloxone (Suboxone) is a partial opioid agonist that helps soothe drug cravings. However, this medication does not give patients the “high” associated with full opioids, such as oxycodone.
- Methadone, a synthetic opioid, prevents the symptoms of withdrawal and craving.
- Naltrexone is a medication used to block the effects of opioids by attaching to opioid receptors in the brain.
Many veterans suffer from co-occurring disorders that require the use of antidepressants. As the name suggests, antidepressants are medications that are effective for the treatment of depression. Additionally, many of these medications help to reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Here is a list of commonly used antidepressant medications:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Bupropion (Welbutrin)
- Citalopram (Celexa)
Addiction Treatment for Veterans
If you or a loved one are a veteran or an active-duty service member and suffer from symptoms of addiction, contact Florida Recovery Group as soon as possible.
Our military track is comprehensive, using only evidence-based treatment modalities. In doing so, we ensure that each patient receives the tools they need to recover from addiction and any co-occurring disorders they may suffer from. Pick up the phone and call us today.