Facts to Know About Substance Use Disorders in Military Veterans

Substance use disorder can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, or gender. Nonetheless, certain subgroups of the population are at a high risk of developing a substance use addiction. Many elements affect addiction rates, and job stress is a major contributing factor. Job-related stress and PTSD are why some professions are required to undergo psychiatric evaluation occasionally. Although there are mechanisms to prevent substance use disorders in military veterans, addiction is still prevalent. Of course, there are ways to seek addiction treatment, and veterans can enter Little Creek Lodge for rehab. However, the more you know about substance use and how it occurs, the higher your chances of preventing addiction. Therefore, it is also useful to read up on facts to know about substance use disorders in military veterans.

How Addiction Occurs

There have been many studies regarding the factors that cause addiction. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer that can help us to prevent addiction from occurring in the first place. However, research has led to the determining factors and major contributors to the development of substance use disorder in individuals.

Genetic predisposition. Sadly, there seems to be some truth to the adage that ‘addiction runs in the family.’ Scientists believe that addiction is moderately to highly inheritable, especially for first-degree relatives. This means you have a higher risk of developing substance use disorder if your parents or siblings suffer from addiction.

Learned unhealthy coping skills. Even if you didn’t inherit addiction genetically, you can learn it as an acceptable form of behavior. Children who grow up in homes with substance use have a higher chance of becoming addicted. If those children constantly see their parents use substances to cope with stress, those behaviors become internalized.

Societal pressures. Many people begin using addictive substances due to peer pressure or societal expectations. Spending time with people with substance use habits will increase your chances of developing an addiction. Casual use of legal addictive substances is often considered to be socially acceptable. For example, this is the case with alcohol, which can lead to addiction that requires treatment.

Dealing with trauma. Life is full of traumatic events, and some people turn to substance use to cope with stress. Substance use is an unhealthy way to deal with negative emotions. Instead of solving the problems which are causing you stress, substance use will undoubtedly lead to addiction.

Military gear on chest.
PTSD and anxiety often accompany substance use disorders in military veterans.

What Causes Addiction and Substance Use Disorders in Military Veterans

Obviously, individuals in the military can develop an addiction just like everyone else. Substance use disorders represent a significant problem among military veterans, and it’s natural to look for ways to prevent addiction. The importance of researching facts to know about substance use disorders in military veterans comes from the correlation to a high risk of death from overdose and suicide.

We have previously looked at general causes of addiction that still apply to military personnel. However, when it comes to substance use disorders in military veterans, there are a few more factors to consider:

Stress and PTSD. High job-induced stress can lead to the development of long-term trauma and anxiety. Substance use disorder existing alongside a co-occurring mental disorder is actually very common. There is a complex relationship between anxiety and addiction, and we classify them as dual diagnosis symptoms. Be aware that substance use disorder can emerge following other mental health issues such as PTSD. For this reason, regular psychiatric evaluation of individuals with high-stress jobs, such as military personnel, is highly advised.

Dealing with a chronic injury. Another common cause of substance use disorder can be a co-occurring physical injury. Even medical conditions that aren’t directly resulting from an injury can lead to substance abuse. Examples of such conditions are sleep disturbance, chronic pain, or obesity. A common way of dealing with these chronic conditions is to turn to prescription medication. Unfortunately, it is quite possible to develop an addiction to prescription medication. The US is currently facing an opioid epidemic for this very reason. Some individuals start using prescription medication to deal with pain or other chronic issues. However, an addiction can easily occur through prolonged use or incorrect dosage.

Recognizing Addiction and Substance Use Disorders in Military Veterans

The use of illegal drugs or excessive consumption of alcohol is forbidden in the military. Yet many individuals still develop a substance use disorder. Some military service members develop their addiction during their active service. However, there is also a large number of veterans that start struggling with addiction after their active service is completed. Due to regular military screenings and controls, supervisors will likely notice an addiction during active service. Unfortunately, the situation is somewhat different when it comes to military veterans.

Although support groups and resources are available to veterans, it is much easier to hide signs of substance use. If one of your family members is a veteran, you should get familiar with the most important facts to know about substance use disorder in military veterans. Family plays a critical role in the recovery process. The support of family members and loved ones can help veterans get the treatment they need.

Sadly, some individuals are reluctant to seek treatment. There is often a lot of fear and guilt attached to substance use. Some military veterans fear how others would view them if they knew about their addiction. Some of these views stem from the hypermasculine values imposed by the military. Stigma in seeking help for substance use disorder can prevent many veterans from getting the treatment they need. Military veterans often deem self-reliance as a valuable trait. However, these views can make veterans reluctant to ask for help when struggling with addiction. Therefore, it’s imperative to look for signs of addiction.

Chronic pain may cause substance use disorders in military veterans.
Chronic pain may cause an addiction to prescription medication.

Common signs of addiction

If you fear a family member or loved one is suffering from substance use disorder, look for the following signs:

Isolation. Individuals suffering from substance use disorder are often distant and act aloof. This behavior may come from the fear that others will recognize their addiction. On the other hand, isolation may come from depression which commonly accompanies addiction. Many people suffering from substance use disorder believe they are beyond help and thus sink deeper into addiction and depression. On the contrary, as long as individuals want to get better and overcome their addiction – there is always hope.

Avoidant behavior and irritability. Substance use can often leave individuals feeling anxious and irritable. Moreover, extreme mood changes are also common for individuals who are using. Avoidant behavior can also be an excuse to hide the signs of addiction.

Physical changes. Bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils are typical of drug use. Hard drugs can also cause symptoms that should be easy to notice, such as skin sores and tooth decay. Substance use can also lead to a reduction in motor skills and coordination.

Change in social groups. Individuals who start using will typically fall out with their former social group. They may begin spending time with other addicts who support their new habit.

Disrupted sleeping patterns. Addicts may have trouble sleeping at night or have sudden energy bursts when using. Depending on the substance in question, they may also exhibit constant drowsiness.

Weight fluctuations. Rapid changes in a person’s weight can indicate substance use disorder. Addicts often have trouble maintaining a healthy weight.

Drug paraphernalia. Addicts can use everyday household items as drug paraphernalia. Be on the lookout for unusual pipes, empty cans and bottles, cigarette papers, plastic baggies, and accurate weighing scales.

Treating Addiction and Substance Use Disorders in Military Veterans

Overcoming addiction alone is difficult because of the withdrawal symptoms once drug or alcohol use is stopped. If you try to clean your body of addictive substances, you will experience a strong physical reaction. Common withdrawal symptoms include nausea, shaking, vomiting, and even physical pain. Addiction can become so strong that these symptoms occur even when users attempt to reduce their dosage. Most individuals will struggle to cope with their cravings and withdrawal symptoms to the point that they will start using. Unfortunately, by doing so, the cycle of addiction is restarted.

The best way to treat substance use disorders in military veterans is to enter a men’s residential treatment facility. Little Creek Treatment Center in Pennsylvania offers men-only inpatient treatment that licensed professionals supervise. With our help, you can overcome addiction and learn to live a fulfilling and sober life.

It would be best if you realized that treating addiction isn’t easy, even with professional help. The first steps on your road to recovery will undoubtedly be the most difficult ones. However, if you are determined to succeed, we can help you achieve sobriety. We offer medically assisted treatment to help patients combat their withdrawal symptoms and cravings. MAT uses medications to lessen the cravings and help patients avoid relapse. Therefore, the fear of withdrawal shouldn’t be an excuse to enter rehab.

We also offer patients the ability to participate in outpatient rehab treatment programs that don’t include overnight stay. Outpatient rehab consists of individual and group therapy sessions that are conducted several times a week. Little Creek in Lake Ariel has several different outpatient programs that differ in intensity and the number of weekly sessions.

Drill sergeant yelling at soldier.
Military culture can prevent veterans from seeking treatment for addiction.

Military Culture and Substance Use Disorders

Spending time in the military means that most veterans have adopted a specific mindset. The military teaches service members to be self-reliant, a crucial skill that can help you through many real-life situations. Unfortunately, you cannot overcome substance use disorder alone. Individuals suffering from addiction need the help of highly trained and licensed clinical staff. However, to overcome addiction, patients must have a strong support group. There will be many times when you are struggling, even after you complete rehab. Having people that you can rely on can help you prevent relapse.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a strong social circle or family members that will be their support group. One of the essential facts to know about substance use disorders in military veterans is that service members might have difficulty admitting they need help and support. It will be especially difficult for some people to ask for help from their closest friends and relatives. Thankfully, you can start building your support group while you are in rehab. Attending group therapy will let you connect with other patients. The friendships you’ll make in rehab will be one of the strongest lifelong bonds you will create.

Sometimes, male military veterans have difficulty opening up in front of other female patients. That is one of the benefits of attending a male-only clinical program in Little Creek, Pennsylvania. Men typically have an easier time exploring their repressed anxieties and negative feelings in a men-only environment. This stems from the fact that there is no fear that they will be perceived as less manly. However, if you want to overcome addiction, there can be no room for shame or guilt.

Treating Anxiety and PTSD

Besides helping patients overcome addiction and stop using substances, our clinicians also help them deal with their anxiety. As we previously mentioned, many military veterans turn to substance use to deal with stress-related issues. Sadly, anxiety and PTSD are common co-occurring mental illnesses for military veterans. Fortunately, we can treat anxiety and addiction through EMDR therapy which has proven incredibly effective.

EMDR stands for Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and it can alleviate the stress caused by recollecting past trauma. EMDR works by stimulating rapid rhythmic eye movements through bilateral or physical stimulation. During EMDR, therapists will ask patients to look back on traumatic memories and teach them to manage past trauma.

The brain can be reprocessed through the use of relaxation techniques and the simultaneous drawing of attention away from traumatic memories. Over time patients will become desensitized to the painful memories and the emotional disturbance they caused. Learning to resolve past trauma can bring closure to military veterans and help them deal with both addiction and anxiety.

Depressed military veteran sitting on park bench.
Depression and isolation are common signs for substance use disorders in military veterans.

Other Forms of Therapy That Can Help With Substance Use Disorders in Military Veterans

Although EDMR can be extremely beneficial for treating anxiety and addiction, we also employ other behavioral techniques for treating addiction. The most common therapeutic techniques are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT). Both CBT and DBT are recognized and highly successful evidence-based psychotherapeutic techniques for managing substance use disorder. These techniques can also help reinforce behavior that prevents relapse. Since many people start abusing substances to deal with negative emotions, those behavioral patterns must be re-addressed.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be used to assess and understand the negative thoughts involved with substance use. Once patients recognize their negative thoughts about themselves and the world, they can understand the factors that led to addiction. CBT therapists can teach patients how to deal with their negativity in a positive manner. Over time, you can replace the negative behaviors with constructive ways of responding to addiction triggers.

As a type of CBT, dialectical behavioral therapy focuses on helping patients acknowledge their negative emotions. DBT will teach patients that it’s alright to feel pain and discomfort but that choosing healthy behaviors is critical. In both individual and group DBT, you can learn to deal with addiction triggers by managing your thoughts and emotions. The core skills of DBT training include mindfulness, emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance. These coping skills can help individuals maintain their sobriety after they complete rehab. You will be able to manage your cravings for drugs and alcohol and function in society as a sober individual.

Both CBT and DBT rely on individual and group training sessions. Individuals attending Little Creek for inpatient and outpatient rehab can participate in CBT and DBT programs. The skills you learn in therapy can help you manage your addiction long-term and prevent relapse.

How Military Veterans Can Attend Little Creek for Rehab

If you are a military veteran needing treatment for substance use disorder, you can contact us. The Little Creek Treatment Center in Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania, can offer the treatment you need to recover. To attend our rehab facility, individuals must go through our admission process. While we have streamlined admissions, there are still several criteria prospective patients need to meet.

Incoming patients need to complete medical detox, and they must also have medical clearance to participate in our rehab programs. Inpatient treatment in Little Creek is available only to male patients, while women can join our co-ed outpatient programs. Patients may use health insurance to cover their rehab, and Little Creek accepts most major insurance providers.

If you are unsure about what benefits and services your insurance will cover, we can verify your insurance. Keep in mind that additional payment options exist for patients without health insurance. Individuals may be eligible for payment assistance, Medicare and Medicaid benefits, and there is also the option of paying out of pocket.

Little Creek has a privacy policy to protect the confidentiality of our patients. It is your choice to share the information regarding your treatment with your friends and family. However, Little Creek complies with all laws and regulations regarding our client’s personal information. This means that we might be required by law to disclose your information. Situations that may require disclosing your medical information relate to your eligibility for special government and military functions. You can read more about our privacy policy on this link, where you’ll find information regarding our duties and responsibilities.

Helping Your Loved Ones

It is possible that one of your family members is a military veteran who is struggling with addiction. If you want to help them, we can provide you with the resources to do so. Most individuals are reluctant to seek treatment or even to discuss their substance use disorder. You may run into difficulties even if you try to stage a family intervention. Unfortunately, most people aren’t equipped with all the facts to know about substance use disorders in military veterans. This lack of knowledge often makes family members and friends ill-equipped to confront and get through to their loved ones. Thankfully, you can rely on us for family intervention services. We can have a trained professional come and assist you with the intervention. Such interventions are usually best if a member of the immediate family attends them.

In general, family plays a critical role in recovery. For this reason, we have a family addiction program to educate family members on addiction and recovery. We also provide family therapy as a form of counseling that can help you resolve conflicts and improve communication. Besides just taking an active part in the rehab process, the support of family members is critical for long-term sobriety. Family members can provide you with a substance-free home and help you avoid addiction triggers. They can also support and encourage you to attend AA meetings which are crucial for relapse prevention.

Military veterans in group therapy.
Group therapy lets you connect with other patients.

Relapse Prevention for Military Veterans

Addiction is a disease that has no cure. Attending rehab is often the only way to achieve and maintain sobriety. However, you must understand that you will be a recovering addict and must constantly take steps to avoid relapse. Thankfully, most military veterans are accustomed to rigorous discipline and dedication. Those skills will come in handy for maintaining a sober lifestyle. Know that you will not be left to your own devices even after you complete rehab.

During rehab, we teach our patients many relapse prevention techniques they can use when struggling with cravings. Our doors are also always open for our former clients. Regardless of struggling or just want to stop by and say hello, you will always be welcome. We consider all of our former clients to be members of the Little Creek family. Keeping in touch with the friends you made in rehab is also a great way to continue supporting each other.

We try to facilitate the meetings of our past patients in our alumni clubhouse. Past clients are also encouraged to attend workshops and group therapy sessions. Hearing the experience of others who have managed to overcome their struggle with addiction is incredibly motivating for new patients.

We also invite former patients to participate in our outdoor adventure program. The outdoor activities we organize are great for exercising, socializing, and reconnecting with nature. At Little Creek Lodge, we strongly emphasize teaching patients that sobriety can be fun. Learning to enjoy sober life is an integral aspect of relapse prevention.

Closing Statements on Substance Use Disorders in Military Veterans

Now that we’ve covered the essential facts to know about substance use disorders in military veterans, we hope you have a better understanding of addiction. We have discussed the common causes and the recommended treatments for addiction in military service members. If you are a military veteran needing rehab, we would be proud to be part of your recovery. Feel free to contact Little Creek Treatment Center in Pennsylvania if you or a loved one require addiction treatment. We can treat your substance use disorder and show you that you can live a life free from addiction. A sober and fulfilling life is possible; all you need to do is reach out and ask for help. We realize that seeking treatment can be scary, but we will greet you with kindness and respect. Therefore, you shouldn’t delay; ask for treatment immediately.


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