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A Veteran’s Guide
to Addiction Treatment

Nearly one out of five U.S. veterans — more than two million — that return from conflicts suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, an emotional trauma which often increases the chance for substance use.

Don’t think PTSD only impacts veterans that saw combat. Survivor remorse is an example of a mental condition which impacts a growing number of America’s heroes; men and women that wanted to fight side by side with their brothers in arms, but were unable to because their numbers weren’t called, and now, they may feel regret for loss friends, or missed opportunities to “prove their worthiness,” as a victim of this condition might say.

We know they’re all heroes; but without help, they don’t see themselves that way.

As a country, we still have a lot to learn about the impact of the military and conflicts on our soldiers. The better we understand this and other issues, the better chance we can all end the devastating cycle of unfortunate deaths and suicides after serving, as well as addictions that if left untreated, can haunt these individuals for years.

No wonder veteran suicides once were nearly 20 percent of all U.S. suicides in a year.

Many times the general public does not fully grasp the situations that military personnel are put in. It is seen on television and read in the news, but the complete picture is not there.  When veterans come back from a war or step out of active duty, they are often misunderstood or dismissed, leaving them feeling neglected and unappreciated despite the courageous deeds they have done for their country.

Unfortunately, a combination of undergoing traumatic events overseas along with the feelings of inadequacy and neglect when returning can leave many feeling hopeless. Many veterans turn toward drugs and alcohol to cope for these simple reasons. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, about 1 in every 10 returning veterans suffer from a drug or alcohol problem. Also, almost 1 out of every 3 veterans who suffer from PTSD seek out treatment for a substance use disorder.

This does not account for the veterans who already had mental health disorders–co-occurring disorders are oftentimes seen in treatment centers for those who have been in the military.

Veteran substance abuse and addiction is a crucial problem that must be addressed, as well as normalized.

This article will guide veterans and loved ones of veterans to more information about and valuable resources on drug and alcohol addiction among this population, as well as how we can all work toward destigmatizing addiction amongst veterans. Lastly, find out how Arista Recovery can help veterans during this challenging time of their lives.

Veteran Addiction: What Signs To Watch For?

It’s hard for veterans to ask for help; sometimes to accept it.

Too often, they’re so accustomed to helping others, not themselves. Or, they feel shame, embarrassment by accepting them with issues that previous generations of military peers did not embrace.

We understand living is not enough. At Arista Recovery, we want our veterans to enjoy life, not miss the many moments of pleasure because of an inner trauma which they hide or are completely consumed by. Even the strongest of us need help sometimes, and that applies to veterans too.

Here is a list of symptoms of PTSD to look for.

Friends and Family: Signs to Look For to Indicate Veteran suffers from PTSD

Who Suffers From PTSD?

PTSD was recognized as a medical diagnosis in recent decades, thanks to advocates for change and social movements which exposed veterans that often suffer in the shadows.

PTSD varies by service area, length of service, and service dates. While estimates of veterans suffering from PTSD after Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom are as high as 20 percent, the percentage jumps to 30 percent for Iraq/Afghanistan war veterans and even greater for Vietnam War veterans, perhaps the last group of U.S. soldiers whose mental trauma was misunderstood by the masses.

What substances are popular for veterans to abuse?

Veterans are exposed to a plethora of substances, either during their service or after. Alcohol is, by far, the most prevalent substance. Veterans turn to alcohol to numb pain, socialize with others or relieve stress through heavy or binge drinking.

Prescription painkillers are another substance that veterans turn to — from prescription oxycodone and hydrocodone to codeine. In the late 1990s, opioid painkillers became popular.  At the time, they were wrongly considered non-habit forming. Then, over time, the cases piled up. By the time the federal government banned opioids, legions of individuals were hooked, and turned to other substances

By the mid-2010s, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and tramadol led to an increase in opioid overdose deaths.

How has substance use impacted veterans?

There’s so much on the line for veterans suffering from substance use.

Suicide and Deaths

A substantial amount of veteran deaths are tied to high-risk behaviors that lead to deaths. Too often, substance abuse is a part of the equation.

Also, as many as one out of three veteran suicides include a military hero who suffered from substance abuse.

Homelessness

According to recent studies, as many as one out of 10 homeless individuals are veterans; a majority suffer from substance abuse. Numerous programs are available on all levels of government to help veterans, but assistance doesn’t always reach the right people.

Prison

Nearly half of veterans in prison are diagnosed with mental disorders; trauma that if addressed sooner, may have led to different life outcomes. It’s the reason why the medical professionals at Arista Recovery work so hard to change outcomes for our veteran clients.

Why Are Veteran Addiction Programs Important?

Our specialized program for veterans understands the unique challenges soldiers face when they return home. We give them access to treatment programs that are tailored to their needs, while providing emotional support from people who understand what they’re going through.

When you’re a veteran who is suffering from addiction, Arista Recovery can provide much-needed detox services. We also offer different levels of care, depending on needs and desires. Our talented team, which includes several veterans, understands what their clients are going through and will work hard to give them the best possible chance of success. We will also assist you transition back to work or home, the next step to recovery and sobriety.

Veterans who are suffering from addiction can get help by contacting Arista Recovery 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our staff is available to answer any questions you have; we can even connect you with one of our counselors or graduates of our treatment program — men and women that served our country. It’s our way of ensuring our clients know the team around them at Arista Recovery will understand what they are going through before they start working on a treatment plan. We’re committed to helping veterans who are suffering from substance abuse, as well as other mental health concerns, our way of ensuring they get their lives back on track. After all, addiction is a serious problem that can affect not only veterans, but their families if not dealt with. Arista Recovery is here to help you with your addiction and will give you the guidance necessary to make a positive change in your life.

Addiction isn’t something that should be taken lightly. It can affect anyone, even someone in the military. Our goal is to make sure that those men and women are able to receive treatment without problems or delays.

Veterans suffering from addiction deserve the best chance at recovery, which is why our team members continue to serve community members in the Kansas City area and Beyond. Addiction can affect anyone, especially those who are in the military because they are constantly surrounded by adrenaline and the need to stay on high alert.

Our treatment programs at Arista Recovery provide veterans with everything they need to recover from their addiction, including detox services and veteran treatment centers, if deemed necessary.

If our program sounds like something that might be able to help you, our staff would be happy to answer any questions about their program so that they can get you on a path towards recovery.

Is there a link between PTSD and co-occurring substance use disorders?

There’s no surprise that nearly 50 percent of people with PTSD also suffer from co-occurring substance use disorder.

Substance use is often utilized as a way to block out traumatic events or unwanted feelings, although over time, they become less effective, leading to increasing, dangerous usage. This cycle often leads to addiction.

What is the best way to cope with PTSD?

Each person, each situation involving PTSD is different. But it is possible for a period of time to learn how to recognize triggers that lead to forgettable behaviors. Before you or a loved one can successfully deal with PTSD when surrounded by triggers you must recognize the issues.

We identified these strategies to help you lessen the impact of PTSD’s triggers. Medical attention from experts like Arista Recovery is still the best and most optimum, long-term solution.

More than two out of every ten veterans seeking substance abuse treatment also have PTSD. Addiction programs for veterans are designed to treat both disorders at the same time, in a way that will reduce their symptoms and increase their chance of recovery. At Arista Recovery, veterans receive individualized care based on an assessment process and counselling that helps them deal with drug and alcohol cravings.

Addiction treatment for veterans can also include medications and medication-assisted therapies that help them to stop drug or alcohol use.

Addiction can be a trigger for PTSD symptoms, but it also serves as the substance of abuse. Addiction and depression are closely linked to one another when mental illness is involved. Whether or not your veteran has issues with anxiety disorders like OCD or bipolar disorder, addiction will affect their ability to function in everyday life and recovery from PTSD may take much longer than you expect due to these circumstances that have been worsened by substance use.

Arista Recovery uses evidence-based therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which helps veterans identify the triggers behind negative thoughts and feelings so they know how to avoid them if possible or replace those thoughts with more positive ones through coping skills training including relaxation techniques . The goal of CBT is teaching patients new behaviors that reduce stress and anxiety, enabling them to cope better with life.

At Arista Recovery , we treat veterans holistically by helping them get in touch with their feelings so they can process the issues that have led to addiction or PTSD before treating symptoms of either disorder. Addiction is a biological condition which has neurological roots and it’s important for treatment providers such as ourselves at Arista Addiction not only help our clients deal with cravings but address other mental health concerns like depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders including OCD . We want to build a strong foundation on which recovery stands so it will last long term without relapse. One way we do this is through evidence-based practices like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and motivational enhancement therapy (MET) which help our clients become more self-aware and develop better coping skills. Addiction is a chronic condition but it can be managed successfully with the right treatment plan so veterans who suffer from both PTSD and addiction are able to heal, rebuild their lives and learn to live without drugs or alcohol.

For more information on veteran substance abuse programs in Kansas City, please contact us today at Arista Recovery.

Pain that Leads to Addiction

Veterans go through both physical and mental pain. This is undeniable. Combat exposure, injuries, multiple deployments, the loss of friends, leaving family behind, etc. all have a tremendous impact on veterans’ lives. These occurrences leave behind literal and excruciating pain that cannot be ignored.

Pain management is important for veterans. The chronic pain that they endure can relate to migraines, back pain, muscle pain, neck pain, jaw pain, joint pain, and beyond.

For the physical pain, many military personnel and veterans turn to doctors to prescribe pain relievers, many times opioids, to try to live a normal life. Oftentimes, opioids are overused, over-prescribed, and abused, as they are extremely addictive. Common medications that are typical prescribed to veterans to help them with both the physical and mental pain related to their experiences are:

Most of these daily-use substances can easily become a full-blown substance use disorder, which is not the fault of the addict. Many addicts blame themselves for their addiction, yet there is a multitude of factors that go into the possibility of addiction.

There is often unbearable pain that veterans must endure. They struggle to get back to their “normal” lives after being wounded or undergoing horrifying and stressful events that lead to PTSD. It is no wonder that many veterans turn to substances to cope when feeling as if the weight of the world is on their shoulders.

Addiction Among Women Veterans

More and more women are joining the military, which is a turn in the right direction for both women and the United States military. Both feminists and non-fems cheer on the open doors and encourage more women to continue joining. Compared to our history, the U.S. is making great strides in equality and inclusion.

However, women veterans, just like men, are prone to addiction. About 7 percent of women veterans suffer from addiction. They, however, can suffer from experiences that many men are unlikely to experience while in active duty. These experiences can precipitate substance use and abuse.

An increase in the risk of drug or alcohol abuse for women is caused for various reasons.

Studies show that women are almost twice as likely as men to develop PTSD, twice as likely to have serious psychological distress after returning home, and approximately one in five women veterans report undergoing sexual trauma while on active duty. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, these events are often covered up, denied, or diminished, making them even more traumatic for the victims.

Women veterans turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with physical and emotional pain when they return just like men. Veterans who have been sexually abused during active duty face inconceivable trauma that they must handle once back at home. This is not an easy road to go down, and many women begin abusing substances to avoid reliving the past.

When back at home, it is difficult to live life as it was prior to enrolling in the active military, especially when women feel they must go back to a job, a family, and other responsibilities. Hopelessness and inadequacy are common feelings for women veterans.

There are places though, such as Arista Recovery, where women veterans can turn to that understand their suffering and have the capacity to help them heal.

Comprehensive Treatment Options For Veterans

Fortunately, there are various research-based, viable treatment options for veterans!

No matter when a veteran needs treatment, whether it be immediately after returning to civilian life or several years later, addiction treatment centers have wide-open doors for veterans.

Most treatment programs are able to work with veterans, although there are some definite centers that cater more specifically toward veteran addicts. Those with drug and/or alcohol use disorders and those with co-occurring disorders are encouraged to seek out treatment at a reputable center as soon as possible to begin their recovery journey.

When veterans enter a treatment facility, they are most likely going to begin the detoxing process, which can last a few days or even a few weeks depending on the situation.

After detoxing, veterans may be admitted to a comprehensive inpatient program or begin an outpatient program. Addiction treatment programs are created to meet individual needs and are tailored to work with unique circumstances.

Staff at treatment centers work intimately with veterans in the capacity of individual and group therapy, holistic therapy methods, medication-assisted therapy, pain management groups, family therapy, and groups to get them prepared for a healthy and successful civilian life and life without substance use.

Their goals are to work on the root cause(s) of the addiction, teach effective coping strategies to replace substances, facilitate reconnecting with friends, family, and life responsibilities, and to allow veteran addicts to see success in their lives that they might not otherwise see outside of treatment.

A truly comprehensive treatment program for veterans includes what has been described above as well as one that individually and realistically creates a plan for success within the walls of treatment, to aftercare, and beyond.

A Go-To Guide for Veterans with Addiction

Returning veterans, those currently in addiction treatment, and veterans considering the possibility of treatment need practical and convenient resources, especially ones to seek out treatment options.

Simply “Googling” for resources or asking a random friend or family member for advice isn’t always the best idea. The choices online can get overwhelming, the most effective keywords might not be correct, and friends and family may be biased in their guidance.

Arista Recovery, however, employs addiction experts and knows a thing or two about where veteran addicts can go when they need addiction resources in and outside of the realm of addiction.

The following are beneficial websites for veterans with addictions to click on to obtain helpful resources.

This is the big papa of veteran resources. Their website provides information on health care benefits, taking care of yourself physically and mentally while on active duty and after returning, specialty health programs, health care for specific groups, general health resources, information on benefits, burial and memorial services, and other ways to honor the fallen.

  1. Wounded Warrior Project

Their vision and goals are best said straight from them:

Every warrior has a next mission. We know that the transition to civilian life is a journey. And for every warrior, family member, and caregiver, that journey looks different. We are here for their first step, and each step that follows. Because we believe that every warrior should have a positive future to look forward to. There’s always another goal to achieve, another mission to discover. We are their partner in that mission.

Start your recovery journey with the Wounded Warrior Project, find a community of strength and resilience with them, and start seeing the difference in your life.

This organization has programs that are greatly beneficial to veterans. They provide legal, health, housing, benefits, and other resources. They can help veterans manage their physical and mental health, manage benefits, and offer vocational rehabilitation and employment services. NVF works closely with Addiction Resource to provide veterans with the substance use support and healing they need.

The Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes was established to ensure that in return for the sacrifices they made for us, these wounded veterans and their families receive all the support needed to restore their hope and rebuild their lives.

Founded in 2004 as a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c) (3) organization, the Coalition is among the nation’s leading charities whose donors provide the wounded veterans and families of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn the aid and assistance needed for their long roads to recovery.

While this online resource is not addiction-specific, it still provides a wealth of support to veterans suffering from addiction. NRD offers free crisis lines to call when in need, a place to discover effective pain management, career and education fair information, military caregiver support, a benefit and compensation handbook, and a place to go when a veteran needs to seek out treatment resources.

There is an abundance of veteran resources online and beyond. The keys to finding great resources are a little research, some persistence, and an open mind.

The Stigma Surrounding Veterans and Addiction

The stigma surrounding veterans and mental health (including addiction) and simply the stigma surrounding addiction, in general, is negative and pervasive. Stigmas are attitudes and behaviors surrounding certain aspects of a person that may be perceived as bad—such as mental health issues—that can be demoralizing to that person.

Stigmas often are born out of misinformation and biased experiences. It is unfortunate that stigmas keep veterans in need from seeking treatment for their addiction to drugs and alcohol.

According to the APA, service members with mental illness will cost the country about $6.2 billion in direct medical care and lost productivity in just the first two years after they return from deployment.

This is real, folks. Obviously something is going on here that needs to be addressed. So why is there even a stigma surrounding this and what it is all about?

Because many returning veterans suffer from mental health issues such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, or addiction, stigmas are floating around that veterans are weak, unstable, flawed, broken, or unmotivated.

These are absolutely not true.

Veterans and anyone who puts their life on the line for others are courageous, motivated, relentless, selfless, and determined–among many other positive adjectives!

People often wonder how to stop the stigma.

The answer is to educate, talk about the issues at hand, and be open about your own struggles. The military is fighting the war on stigma, and you should too! Influencers and the like need to stand up and stand out to address hurtful and false stigmas. Without doing so, additional damage will come to veterans and many more choose to pass on getting the help they so desperately need in an addiction treatment center.

Conclusion

Not every veteran will succumb to a substance addiction after returning home from active duty. But the rate is high and the causation is real. While many factors contribute to someone’s risk of addiction, being overseas fighting for a country is an obvious one. No veteran chooses to get injured or traumatized. No veteran chooses to become addicted to a substance while trying to cope with life.

However, veterans can choose to seek out treatment with a treatment center and start their journey toward recovery.

If you are a veteran or a loved one of a veteran, the ball is in your court. Make the choice today to start the recovery process, which is one simple phone call or message to the wonderful staff at Arista Recovery. It is a judgment-free center that will provide you with comprehensive addiction treatment you will not get anywhere else. Trust in us to kickstart your recovery and set you on the path to a happy and healthy life without substances while coping with the underlying causes.

You are brave and heroic–now do something good for yourself!

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