Military and Veterans Substance Abuse Treatment Programs ( SUD)

The physical and mental stress of serving in the armed forces expose veterans to a high risk of substance use disorder, or SUD. Physical injuries, combat exposure, psychological trauma and prolonged separation from loved ones take a severe toll on the body and mind. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides both short-term and long-term solutions for veterans of the Navy, Army, Marines and Air Force. Whether you need help moderating your drinking or you have a life-threatening addiction to illicit drugs, support is available to help you get healthy and get back on track with your life.
If you’re a veteran seeking recovery or you’re close to a vet who needs treatment, mental health professionals and addiction specialists can provide:
• Medications to reduce cravings for drugs or minimize withdrawal symptoms
• Medications and individual therapy to address anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
• Counseling for couples and families to help repair damaged relationships
• Training in how to handle relapse triggers
• Coping skills to help you deal with common life stressors
• Connections to self-help support programs in your community, like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous
Substance Abuse and Military Veterans
The psychological and physical repercussions of military service can be long lasting, and many vets need intensive drug and alcohol rehabilitation after they’ve been discharged. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that alcohol abuse is the most widespread problem among military personnel. In a recent NIDA study of Army soldiers who returned home from Iraq, over 27 percent showed signs of alcohol abuse and had a higher than average risk for dangerous behaviors like drinking and driving or using illegal drugs.
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Prescription drug abuse has also increased among members of the Armed Forces. Between 2002 to 2005, nonmedical use of prescription drugs doubled among military personnel. Between 2005 and 2008, the misuse of prescription medications tripled, according to statistics from the NIDA.
How do the statistics on veterans and non-veterans match up? Data gathered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that the differences aren’t as great as you might think:
• In 2003, 3.5 percent of veterans had used marijuana in the past month, compared with 3 percent of nonveterans in a similar demographic group.
• The data revealed that 0.8 percent of veterans received treatment for alcohol or illicit drug use, compared with 0.5 percent of nonveterans.
• About 7.5 percent of veterans reported heavy use of alcohol within the past month, compared with 6.5 percent of nonveterans.
• The number of veterans who needed treatment for drugs or alcohol but who did not seek help was comparable to that of nonveterans.
*The Reasons for Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Veterans
The Department of Veterans Affairs isn’t just concerned with helping military personnel fight addiction. VA treatment also addresses the underlying motivators for alcohol and drug abuse, such as:
• Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
• Depression
• Anxiety
• Relationship problems
• Lack of sleep
• Combat stress
Rehab Resources for Army Veterans
Veterans who served in the United States Army may be eligible for benefits from the VA to cover the costs of alcohol or drug rehabilitation. Army veterans seeking treatment for substance abuse can start the process by talking with their primary VA health care provider, contacting their nearest Vet Center or calling the VA’s general information hotline. The VA’s rehab services range from:
• Initial screening for Army veterans to gauge their need for drug or alcohol rehabilitation
• Outpatient counseling for veterans who do not need intensive inpatient rehab
• Residential care for those who require intensive medical treatment and structured supervision during rehab
• Continuing care to help Army veterans adjust to life in the civilian world, including access to community self-help groups
The Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) provides counseling, education and rehabilitation services for active military personnel. Active duty soldiers are encouraged to seek help for drug or alcohol abuse by self-referring to their local ASAP counseling center, but commanders and other military personnel can also refer soldiers who show signs of substance abuse.
Army veterans can turn to organizations like the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the Women’s Army Corps Veterans’ Association and the National Guard Association of the United States for general support in dealing with life after military service. While these organizations do not specifically sponsor drug or alcohol treatment programs, they can provide direction and a sense of belonging to Army veterans who are having trouble adjusting to the civilian world.
Rehab Resources for Navy Veterans
Rehabilitation, not incarceration, is the answer to treating military veterans who suffer from substance abuse or chemical dependence. According to an article in the NavyTimes, the Drug Policy Alliance Report of 2009 revealed disturbing statistics among military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan:
• Approximately 30 percent of current conflict veterans have symptoms of PTSD, depression, traumatic brain injury (TBI) or other cognitive disabilities.
• Nineteen percent of veterans of military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are diagnosed with substance abuse or chemical dependence.
• Seventy-five percent of Vietnam veterans meet the criteria for substance abuse.
• Approximately 140,000 veterans were in US state and federal prisons in 2004.
The Drug Policy Alliance Report urged government agencies to initiate overdose prevention programs for veterans and extend access to medication therapy for drug addiction. Methadone and buprenorphine are two of the most widely prescribed medications for reducing the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that can interfere with recovery from opiate addiction.
Veterans’ drug courts serve as a diversionary measure to keep active-duty service members and veterans out of the criminal justice system. Navy veterans who commit low-level drug crimes may have the opportunity to get treatment for substance abuse rather than being taken into criminal custody.
Navy veterans can get help from addiction treatment centers sponsored by the VA. As an alternative, many non-profit civilian drug rehabilitation centers as well as private rehabilitation facilities offer support that targets the unique needs of the military. These specialized services may include counseling for PTSD, medication-assisted therapy, support groups for military veterans and family counseling aimed at restoring broken relationships in military families.
Active-duty sailors can get support and education from the Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention program (NADAP). The NADAP sponsors prevention programs and provides resources for sailors seeking treatment. In 2010, the Navy joined forces with a major non-profit addiction treatment center to provide counseling and support via the Internet for sailors who are currently deployed around the world.
Recovery Resources for Marines
The US Marine Corps is known as a tough crowd, but not even the strongest Marine is completely immune to drug or alcohol addiction. Veterans of the Marines often struggle with the psychological aftermath of combat, carrying invisible mental and emotional wounds that have profound effects on their lives.
Veterans who are seeking help with alcohol or drug abuse or who have been referred for treatment by the criminal justice system can start with the VA. VA and Vet Center facilities are located throughout the country and can be searched by program type and zip code on the VA’s online SUD Program Locator. Private drug and alcohol rehab treatment centers are also available to help veterans of the US Marines cope with PTSD, depression and anger as they recover from substance abuse or drug dependence. If you’d like help finding a treatment center, contact us today.
All VA medical centers operate a Substance Use Disorders (SUD) specialty care program to help veterans of the Marines and other branches of the armed forces recover from drug or alcohol dependence. The VA’s Office of Patient Care Services reports that in 2009, the VA’s SUD programs were widely used by veterans with both drug- and alcohol-related health complications:
• SUD programs treated nearly 152,000 veterans
• 128,000 of the treated veterans had a diagnosis of SUD
• 28.2 percent of these veterans were diagnosed with alcohol problems only
• 19.3 percent of admissions had drug problems only
• 52.4 percent had problems with both drug and alcohol problems
Twelve-step programs can play a vital role in the recovery process for veterans of the Marines. The VA’s SUD specialty care programs routinely refer their patients to 12-step programs to continue their recovery in the community after discharge. Twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are based on the idea that addiction is a progressive disease that involves both body and spirit. Twelve-step meetings are anonymous, free and widely available throughout the world. They are open to those with both alcohol and drug addictions.
The Marine Corps Community Services’ (MCCS) Substance Abuse Program provides outpatient care and intensive rehabilitation for active-duty Marines who suffer from substance use disorders. Substance Abuse Counseling Centers sponsored by the MCCS offer initial screening and assessment, early intervention for low-risk drug or alcohol users, outpatient services for Marines who have signs of substance abuse, and intensive outpatient care for chemically dependent Marines.
Expanding Recovery Resources for Veterans
As awareness of the psychological and psychosocial needs of military veterans grows, the VA is becoming more responsive to veterans’ needs. From anonymous self-screening tools to prevention education and crisis hotlines, the VA offers a number of free addiction treatment services. Outpatient treatment, medically supervised detox and inpatient residential recovery programs are available to veterans who meet the criteria for a substance abuse disorder.
But the NIDA points out that addiction treatment services should be even more accessible to service members. According to the NIDA, early intervention should involve screening service members for substance use disorders when they return from deployment. Helping veterans find the financial resources, clinical care and psychosocial support they need for recovery should be a top national priority