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What is Rehab Like for Veterans Struggling with Addiction?

rehab for veteransAddiction negatively impacts the lives of millions of people in this country. While anyone can develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol, certain risk factors make it more likely for a person to live with the condition. Things like trauma, chronic stress, and physical pain can increase the likelihood that someone will abuse substances.

Veterans often experience emotional and physical pain related to their time in service. These factors make it more likely for veterans to develop an addiction. Many veterans also face additional challenges that make getting help more difficult. They may struggle with unemployment, have physical challenges, or have a mental illness.

Estimates show that nearly 1 in 15 veterans struggles with substance use disorder (SUD).[1] Similarly, more than 2 out of 10 veterans who have PTSD also have SUD and nearly 1 in every 3 veterans who seek treatment for SUD have PTSD.[2]

Our nation’s veterans deserve comprehensive, specialized treatment for addiction. One of the first steps in providing this help to our country’s brave men and women is to understand the issue of veterans and addiction and what rehab is like for veterans.

If you or a loved one require addiction treatment or support during any stage of recovery, reach out to the staff at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment for information about our substance abuse treatment.

Understanding Why People Begin to Abuse Drugs and Alcohol

Because of the stigma around addiction in this country, many people wrongly believe that substance abuse and addiction are a choice or a character flaw. However, addiction is a complex condition and often has deep roots. It is critical to understand why people begin to abuse drugs and alcohol so they can receive effective addiction treatment.

There are many reasons a person may begin to use drugs or alcohol. In some cases, they may experiment with recreational or social substance use. In others, they may receive a prescription for an addictive medication and succumb to its addictive effects.

Another common reason people may begin to abuse substances is to cover up the symptoms of a mental health condition. When people use drugs or alcohol to numb emotional pain, it is called “self-medicating”. Self-medicating is common among people with untreated mental illnesses or who do not have the coping skills to handle challenging emotions.

Many substances, including alcohol, provide temporary relief from pain, stress, or anxiety. But the consequences of prolonged substance abuse can be devastating–and sometimes life-threatening. Many people who self-medicate with drugs and alcohol go on to develop an addiction that will harm their physical and emotional wellbeing, strain their relationships, and put them at risk of legal or financial trouble.

The Connection Between Veterans and Addiction

Life in the military can come with high levels of stress, whether or not a person is in combat. Veterans are more likely to experience trauma than members of the general population. Many return home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by witnessing a life-threatening or otherwise terrifying event.[3] The symptoms of PTSD can significantly disrupt a person’s life. Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Intrusive, upsetting thoughts
  • Flashbacks (re-living the event in your mind)
  • Nightmares
  • Strong emotional reactions to triggers
  • Hypervigilance
  • Destructive behaviors
  • Aggression or irritability
  • Severe guilt and shame

Living with untreated PTSD may have a profound effect on a person’s ability to function in their daily life. People with PTSD often have low self-esteem, have difficulty forming healthy relationships, feel detached, numb, or depressed, and can experience poor sleep, memory, and concentration.

Symptoms of PTSD can vary in presentation and intensity over time. In many cases, people may try to avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic event. Some veterans turn to drugs and alcohol to escape from the emotional pain of trauma and to function in their daily lives.

Over time, using substances to numb emotions can lead to physical dependence or addiction. Many people who have served require specialized addiction treatment for veterans to recover.

What is Addiction Treatment Like for Veterans?

Addiction treatment is offered in many settings and several levels of care. A doctor or addiction specialist will perform an evaluation, including questions about a person’s mental health, physical health, and treatment history, to determine which type of program a person needs.

Rehab for veterans addresses the complex aspects of addiction by treating not just the physical aspects of addiction, but the emotional, behavioral, and environmental aspects, too.

Many people require a medically-supervised detox program before beginning treatment. During detox, medical and mental health professionals monitor and treat people for uncomfortable–or dangerous–withdrawal symptoms.

After detox, a person will begin a treatment program that utilizes a combination of evidence-based and holistic therapies. These include:

  • Group therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Medications
  • Mental health treatment
  • Trauma-informed care and PTSD therapies
  • Education
  • Holistic therapies like exercise, nutrition counseling, mindfulness practice, and other treatments can support healing

Rehab for veterans must also treat the symptoms of chronic stress and trauma. Special treatments for PTSD can be used alongside other addiction treatment activities to help veterans recover from both conditions.

Many people with PTSD experience symptoms for an extended period, so aftercare planning is essential for veterans. Aftercare plans can include individual therapy, support groups, ongoing mental health treatment, and other activities that keep veterans engaged in their recovery for life.

Find a Rehab for Veterans in Massachusetts Today

The dual diagnosis programming at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment is uniquely qualified to address co-occurring PTSD and substance use disorder in veterans. We offer an array of substance use disorder treatment options including IOP, trauma-informed care, and counseling for co-occurring conditions. Comprehensive, integrated care can help service members overcome their addiction and get back on their feet.

If you or someone you love requires addiction treatment, reach out to the caring specialists at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment today.



Ready to Make a Change?

We know that overcoming addiction is not easy and requires courage to ask for help. At Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, our team of professionals has decades of combined experience in helping men, women, and families overcome substance abuse.

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