Veterans and Substance Abuse: How Can a Rehabilitation Center Help?

The heroic men and women who serve our country are celebrated and praised for their selflessness and bravery. But sadly, for some there’s no amount of praise that can erase the emotional ravages of war that are deep-seated in their memories. War veterans experience things no one should have to experience. These painful recollections are what leave so many with mental disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, anxiety and depression, among other conditions.

To manage war-related mental disorders, some veterans turn to alcohol or drugs — or both — as a coping mechanism. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, heavy alcohol use and prescription drug abuse are more prevalent with U.S. military personnel than civilians. PTSD is one of the most common disorders associated with substance use disorders (SUD) among veterans. The following are some veterans and substance abuse statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:

  • More than 20 percent of veterans with PTSD also have a substance use disorder.
  • War veterans with PTSD and alcohol problems tend to be binge drinkers.
  • Almost 33 percent of veterans seeking treatment for SUD also have PTSD.
  • In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 1 in 10 returning soldiers seen in the VA have a problem with alcohol or other drugs.
  • There was a 52.7 percent increase in the number of the outpatient veterans who were treated for substance use disorders from 1995 to 2013.


Substance use disorders can result in various physical side effects, and they can affect the family and friends of veterans as well. The good news is there are many programs and rehabilitation centers in the country that can help veterans with these disorders.

Drug Rehab Centers for Veterans

The Recovery Village is one of the many rehabilitation centers in the country that helps veterans with substance use disorders. With centers in Florida, Colorado, Ohio and Washington, The Recovery Village offers comprehensive treatment for dual diagnosis-based drug and alcohol cases, among other conditions. Top-of-the-line medical care, wellness programs, and holistic therapy designed to treat the whole self are just a few of the many treatments you can expect at our centers. Each facility is also staffed with experienced specialists who all share the same goal of helping patients on the road to recovery.

Some of the programs and treatment therapies offered at The Recovery Village and various other drug rehab centers include:

  • Medical Detoxification: This is the first phase of rehabilitation, and it’s necessary before any other phase can begin. It involves clearing the body of a particular substance under medical supervision, with 24-hour inpatient care. Because the detox phase involves withdrawal symptoms, it’s very important that it be done only under the care of medical professionals.
  • Residential and Partial Hospitalization Treatments: These programs usually occur after detoxification. Residential treatment involves treating patients with round-the-clock care (residential) and counseling. Partial hospitalization involves on-site housing, in addition to 24-hour access to staff every day.
  • Outpatient Programs: Outpatient services emphasize developing skills to prevent relapse and improve mental health with therapy at the rehab center, and support from friends and family at home. Some programs also include rehabilitation off-site, and individual and group therapy sessions on-site.
  • Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders: A co-occurring disorder is a condition in which a person has both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder at the same time. For a veteran, this may include alcohol and depression, opioids and PTSD, or a similar combination. Many rehab centers, including The Recovery Village, offer a specialized, comprehensive treatment approach to address both disorders.
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): MAT increases the chances of recovery when used in conjunction with evidence-based behavioral therapy. There are many FDA-approved medications designed to treat various substance addictions that reduce the chances of an overdose and alleviate withdrawal symptoms. For an opioid addiction, methadone, buprenorphine, Naltrexone or naloxone may be used. Naltrexone can also be used for alcoholism, along with disulfiram and acamprosate.
  • Aftercare Options: Aftercare programs are essential in helping patients remain sober and remain in recovery for a lifetime. They involve a variety of beneficial resources, including counseling, therapy, help with job placement / education options, and sober living housing.
Veterans and Substance Abuse: How Can a Rehabilitation Center Help?

Additional Resources for Veterans with Substance Use Disorders

There are various VA rehab options available through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program to help veterans struggling with substance use disorders. Comparable to standard rehabilitation centers, many of these programs offer various forms of treatment, including VA alcohol treatment, detoxification, rehabilitation and psychiatric care. If you’re a veteran interested in any of these treatments, you must be enrolled in the VA health care system.

The following are some of the services that veterans can expect from various VA drug rehab centers and VA substance abuse programs throughout the country:

  • First-time screening for alcohol or tobacco use in all care locations
  • Short outpatient counseling, including focus on motivation
  • Intensive outpatient treatment
  • Residential (live-in) care
  • Medically managed detoxification (stopping substance use safely) and services
  • Continuing care and relapse prevention
  • Marriage and family counseling
  • Self-help groups
  • Drug substitution therapies and newer medicines to reduce cravings
  • Evening and weekend programs
  • Programs for patients with special concerns, such as women, veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and homeless patients

In addition to treatment programs that use medication, the VA offers treatments that do not involve any drugs. These include:

  • Explaining the correlation between PTSD and substance use problems
  • Strengthening the veteran’s motivation for change
  • Helping veterans better identify and deal with triggers and relapse risks
  • Counseling couples together on how to recover from substance misuse
  • Recommending outside support for recovery, including groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

If you’re a veteran struggling with a substance use disorder, remember that you’re not alone, and there are many resources available to help you. Whether you want something local or prefer to leave the state for treatment, there are options to accommodate everyone. You nobly served our country. You willingly chose to put others before yourself, and that’s the only memory you should have to live with. Call The Recovery Village to speak with someone who can help you. You can also call the VA for programs near you for assistance.

Veterans and Substance Abuse: How Can a Rehabilitation Center Help?
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