Despite efforts, substance use disorder (SUD) continue to rise among veterans. Due to veterans’ unique experiences in the military and their enhanced risk for other difficulties, it’s vital that veteran substance use treatment takes place in a highly supportive environment. A supportive setting lays the groundwork for greater success rates.

The Importance of Creating a Supportive Environment

Creating a secure environment for addiction recovery is significant for all patients, but it’s even more crucial for veterans. Veterans’ background in the military elevates their need for additional support in substance use treatment so they don’t relapse.

What Factors Contribute to Relapse in Veterans?

Factors that make veterans more vulnerable to relapse and require a supportive environment include:

High Rate of PTSD Among Veterans

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was first entered into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) 3 as a result of individuals returning from combat. The aftermath of the Vietnam War on those who served was notable, leading, in part, to the recognition of PTSD as a mental health disorder, primarily affecting people who have witnessed or been involved in a war, other disasters and trauma-related situations.

Veterans have a higher rate of PTSD (7%) than the general population (6%). This percentage rate is an average for all service eras. Some service eras have much higher rates, as the following list indicates:

Service Era PTSD- Last Year PTSD – Some time in life 
Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and 
Enduring Freedom (OEF) 
15 out of 100 (15%) 29 out of 100 (29%) 
Persian Gulf War (Desert Storm) 14 out of 100 (14%) 21 out of 100 (21%) 
Vietnam War 5 out of 100 (5%) 10 out of 100 (10%) 
World War II (WWII) and Korean War 2 out of 100 (2%) 3 out of 100 (3%) 

It’s also important to note that these percentages could yield different results if the study is conducted at a different time. For example, some individuals may not have reported PTSD at the time of the research but got symptoms later in life.

Dual Diagnoses

A dual diagnosis refers to having a substance use disorder at the same time as another mental or physical condition. Some veterans use substances to cope with their mental health issues. For example, a veteran struggling with PTSD may self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Veterans struggling with substance use are at risk for many other comorbidities, including mental health disorders. SUDs are also associated with negative outcomes, such as:

  • Depression
  • Suicide
  • Interpersonal problems
  • Vocational struggles
  • Medical complications
  • Anxiety 

In addition, the rates of depression among veterans have risen from 11.4%–15% after deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan. This increases the likelihood that a veteran with a SUD will have a dual diagnosis. Addressing co-occurring disorders in a safe rehab environment goes a long way in effectuating recovery.

Difficulties Trusting Others

One of the adverse “side effects” of PTSD is relationship problems which stem from difficulties trusting others. An environment that offers peer support can help veterans overcome some of these challenges and move forward in recovery.

Ensuring patient safety in rehab is one way to build trust with veterans, thereby reinforcing their motivation to begin and stay in treatment.

Insufficient SUD Treatment

If a veteran doesn’t stay in a substance use treatment program, they won’t obtain adequate care and services to recover. Relapse is more likely in this instance. Therefore, it’s necessary to prioritize veteran safety in rehab and supportive care to encourage veterans to stay in treatment.


When people feel stigmatized about substance use disorder, they may respond by denying their addiction and avoiding treatment. Effective veteran substance use treatment consists of an atmosphere that supports rather than shames the individual with SUDs.

a group of soldiers with american flags on their uniforms.

Veteran Recovery Is Our Mission

The Recovery Village is an industry-leading treatment provider for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. 

  • Experienced clinicians: Our clinicians are specially trained in trauma-informed care, military culture and treating veteran-specific addiction and mental health needs.
  • Dual diagnosis: We treat addiction and mental health disorders like PTSD, anxiety or depression simultaneously for a better recovery.  
  • EMDR: A revolutionary treatment available at several facilities, EMDR therapy alleviates mental pain and emotional recession from trauma, which can lead to better outcomes for your addiction.
  • FORTITUDE: Our specialty track for veterans and first responders at select facilities puts you in exclusive group therapy sessions with your peers. 

If you’re a veteran struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, our Veteran Advocates can help you navigate your VA health insurance and get you the help you need.

How The Recovery Village Builds Safety and Trust

The Recovery Village fosters a sense of safety and trust for veterans in treatment. They understand that empowering patients through a safe rehab environment is critical to a positive recovery experience and results in a more favorable long-term outcome. Some of the components of The Recovery Village that make it stand out as a supportive environment are listed below.

Cultivates a Sense of Safety and Trust

Trust and safety in addiction treatment are critical features that veterans require. After being in high-stress situations and potentially seeing devastating scenarios, patient safety in rehab must be ensured. The Recovery Village nurtures veteran safety in rehab.

Fosters a Sense of Community and Belonging

Veterans often withdraw after returning to civilian life. Due to mental health difficulties and substance misuse, they may isolate themselves instead of reaching out for help. At The Recovery Village, we strive to create a space where everyone feels like they belong.

Provides Peer Support

Peer support workers are others who have successfully gone through the recovery process. These individuals can offer veterans a sense of safety and companionship beyond the typical therapist-patient relationship in treatment.

Combats Stigma

Stigmas surrounding substance use harm veterans and may result in them not seeking treatment. The negative stigmatization of people with SUDs decreases through education, awareness and programs.

Provides Trauma-Informed Care

Understanding trauma is essential to helping veterans succeed in recovery. People who have survived “man-made” trauma in their past have difficulty with interpersonal relationships, trusting others and letting their guard down. Trauma-informed programs are careful to avoid re-traumatizing the veteran.

Veteran Goals & Values

When choosing a substance use treatment program, veterans must consider ones that align with their personal goals and values and promote a supportive environment. Programs emphasizing peer support, holistic therapies, evidence-based practices, transparent communication and patient safety, such as The Recovery Village, will give veterans the ideal place to work on their recovery. Contact us today to learn more about how a supportive environment can help veterans recover.

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Editor – Theresa Valenzky
Theresa Valenzky graduated from the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Arts in News/Mass Media Communication and a certificate in psychology. She is passionate about providing genuine information to encourage and guide healing in all aspects of life. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Danielle Boland
Danielle is licensed clinical social worker, currently living and practicing in central Connecticut. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.