Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It can affect all walks of life and the heroes of the nation are no exception. Substance use disorders are a devastating issue that many military veterans face. Drug and alcohol abuse affects veterans and active duty members across the nation at alarming rates.
Many veterans suffer from mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Unfortunately, many veterans often turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their symptoms. At PAX Memphis, we proudly work with TRICARE health insurance programs to provide veterans who are suffering from addiction the help that they deserve.
Veterans and Addiction
Veterans who have experienced combat have often been exposed to traumatic events. In addition, many suffer from the difficulties of being away from home and the harsh demands of their positions. As a result, it is extremely common for veterans to develop mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD. One study found that 25% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan reported symptoms of a mental or cognitive disorder. To cope with these symptoms, it is common for Veterans to turn to alcohol and prescription medications.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that more than 11% of service members misuse prescription drugs and the most common drug of abuse is opioid pain medications. When it comes to alcohol abuse, between 20-27% of military personnel report binge drinking on a weekly basis.
Veterans who have engaged in combat, encountered multiple deployments, or sustained chronic injuries are among the most susceptible to developing a drug or alcohol addiction. In addition, heavy drinking is often accepted and encouraged in the military as a recreational activity, a way to cope with stress, and a way to promote camaraderie among active service members. Opioids, on the other hand, are often prescribed when individuals sustain a painful injury. For military service members, chronic injuries are common and many become addicted to opioids.
There are a variety of reasons why so many veterans suffer from addiction. These include:
- Using substances to cope with mental illness
- Chronic exposure to trauma and violence
- Suffering from injuries that lead to the development of chronic pain
- Reluctance to seek help for mental illness
- Fear of judgment from family and peers
- Absence of healthy coping skills
- Lack of accessible mental health resources
Veterans and PTSD
PTSD is, by far, the most common mental illness experienced among veterans. PTSD is a mental disorder that can develop after an encounter with a traumatic or life-threatening experience. The symptoms of PTSD can be so unpleasant that many turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. Nearly one in six veterans who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan reported suffering from symptoms of PTSD.
The link between PTSD and substance abuse is so strong, as more than 33% of veterans who are addicted to drugs or alcohol also suffer from PTSD and more than 20% of veterans who have PTSD also suffer from a substance use disorder. Although PTSD can feel like a hopeless illness, it is completely manageable through trauma-informed care and other types of counseling.
Symptoms of PTSD include:
- Flashbacks of the traumatic event
- Low self-esteem and self-worth
- Struggling with memory and concentration
- Hostility and aggression
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Insomnia, nightmares, and having trouble sleeping through the night
- Risky behaviors
- Self-harming behaviors
- Isolating from family and friends
- Mood swings
- Unwilling to discuss vulnerable topics and express emotions
PTSD symptoms can vary from person to person, and while some will begin to experience some symptoms shortly after the event, some won’t display symptoms for several years. One thing that makes PTSD so scary and seemingly hopeless is that the symptoms can strike out of nowhere.
Treating Veterans in Memphis
At PAX Memphis Recovery Center, our dedicated addiction professionals understand the importance of providing the best possible care to veterans. When it comes to providing the best possible treatment for veterans, it is important that they participate in both dual diagnosis therapy and trauma-informed care.
Dual diagnosis therapy
When at a drug rehab, it is important that both mental illness and addiction are treated. Since the prevalence of co-occurring disorders is so common among veterans, it is crucial to provide them with dual-diagnosis therapy.
In addition to PTSD, veterans may suffer from depression and anxiety. All of these mental health conditions can negatively affect how individuals make decisions and cope with situations in life. Dual diagnosis care focuses on treating both addiction and mental illness through integrated therapy and counseling. Dual diagnosis therapy can include:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Use of psychiatric medications to reduce symptoms of mental illness
Trauma-informed care has been proven effective in treating the symptoms of PTSD and addiction among veterans. This unique type of therapy encourages veterans to talk about their trauma and their symptoms in a safe environment while teaching them healthy coping mechanisms to deal with their symptoms in the future.
Participation in trauma-informed care will arm veterans with the life skills they will need to achieve long term sobriety. They will learn how to identify the things that trigger their PTSD and what they can do to successfully cope with these triggers. The primary purpose of trauma-informed care in drug rehab for veterans is to help them find ways to live with PTSD, mitigate their symptoms, and prevent relapse.
Working with TRICARE
In order to expand treatment options to Veterans, PAX Memphis Recovery Center works with TRICARE. TRICARE provides coverage specifically for military service members and veterans. In order to increase veteran access to addiction treatment in Memphis, TRICARE offers coverage for detox, residential treatment, partial hospitalization program (PHP), intensive outpatient program (IOP), and outpatient (OP).
“Here at PAX Memphis, we value all of our Veterans and our goal is to ensure every client receives quality addiction treatment that also addresses and treats co-occurring disorders like PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Co-occurring disorders can be a result of individuals attempting to cope with their PTSD, depression, or anxiety by self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. Our goal is to create a community in Memphis TN that eases the stress of insurance coverage and financial insecurities by working with TRICARE and a variety of other insurance companies to better serve our clients.”
If you or a loved one is a veteran who is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, contact us at PAX Memphis Recovery Center to learn more about our veterans program today.