Military veterans and active service members put their lives on the line for the benefit of others. However, when their lives are at risk due to addiction or mental health disorders, many of them feel they have nowhere to turn for confidential, evidence-based treatment.
The Difference You’ll Find at Willingway
Our inpatient rehabilitation facility, outpatient services, and extended treatment services near Augusta, GA, are part of a larger network of addiction treatment centers dedicated to not only understanding the specific needs of military men and women, but also providing individualized treatment tailored to their particular challenges.
Willingway’s veteran treatment program, known as Tactical Recovery Support Services, is certified through PsychArmor, a nonprofit that educates the civilian community and healthcare providers on military culture. Additionally, serving our clients is a medical team composed of veterans, including Jason Evans (U.S. Army), physician’s assistant; and Vance A. Raham (U.S. Air Force), medical director.
Board-certified in addiction medicine, Raham’s experience as a physician in the Indiana correctional system as well as a member of the Indiana Attorney General’s Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force enables him to provide a unique perspective on quality, whole-person health approaches to veteran wellness.
“The greatest misconceptions some active service personnel have about seeking addiction treatment are 1) asking for help is a weakness and, 2) no one cares about their addiction issues,” Raham says. “We strive to change these perceptions by showing them we care and help them realize that it takes more strength to ask for and accept help than to struggle on their own.”
The Need for Individualized Addiction Treatment for Vets
You’re probably familiar with some of the statistics, but here are a few key points:
- Military.com reports that veterans have higher rates of insomnia than non-veterans, especially if they’re dealing with chronic pain, PTSD, or traumatic brain injury.
- The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that “43 percent of veterans dropped out over the course of 12-week treatment. The dropout rate was fairly consistent, with a spike between sessions 9 and 10. Patients with more severe PTSD symptoms at the start of therapy were modestly more likely to drop out.” It’s imperative that individualized treatment address how to effectively manage relapse triggers to help veterans stay the course.
- Dose of Reality reports that “veterans with PTSD were more likely to receive higher-dose opioids.” In addition, nearly 30 percent of veterans diagnosed with PTSD also have alcohol use disorder (AUD) or substance use disorder (SUD). Drug overdoses reached a new high in 2020, and Georgia was one of the most high-risk states in the southern U.S.
Raham adds other essential facts. “More than one in 10 veterans are diagnosed with SUD—slightly higher than the general population. One study found that the overall prevalence of SUDs among male veterans was lower than rates among their civilian counterparts when all ages were examined together,” he says. “However, when looking at the pattern for only male veterans aged 18–25 years, the rates were higher in veterans compared with civilians.”
Raham notes the veteran population is also greatly impacted by several critical issues related to substance use, such as chronic pain, suicide risk, trauma, and homelessness.
The Rippling Effects of Veterans Avoiding Treatment
As Raham stated above, it demonstrates far more strength to seek and accept treatment, but many active and retired military personnel are caught in a trap of stigma, self-medication, hyper-masculine culture, and even fear of career retribution. Binge drinking is done in the open and considered “typical” behavior, while illicit drug use is hidden because of the military’s zero-tolerance policy.
An inability to face the caustic reality of addiction, its contributing factors, and treatment creates a rippling effect for men and women in the armed forces—as well as their families and friends. Additionally, Raham states that:
- Underlying issues such as PTSD, trauma, and chronic pain lead to over-medication with controlled medications as a maintenance regimen.
- Extended exposure to these substances leads to more addiction issues.
- Long exposure decreases functionality leading to poor social functioning and financial problems.
Raham also notes that the effects of PTSD—either prior to or as a result of military service— create a “propensity to use opioids and benzodiazepines to treat PTSD or trauma that leads to addiction, tolerance, and dependence.”
A Unit of Support
With the full force of medical support and specialized treatment, Willingway’s program for veterans is very successful, tailoring detoxification and treatment programs to fit the special needs of those who have served, especially in combat/trauma situations, to facilitate sleep, pain, and behavioral issues.
“We’ve been successful with treating and detoxing vets through restructuring our detox protocols, continuing certain medications if necessary, and programming,” he says. “Additionally, we’ve successfully detoxed patients off of Methadone maintenance, allowing them to regain a life free from opioids.” The attention to appropriate care protocols and the gradual conversion to no controlled medications, he adds, returns the ability to function without addictive medications or alcohol.
“While we don’t pretend to know what they have gone through, we care,” Raham says. “We have the insight and compassion to understand their need to live and function without being overmedicated.”
We’re Ready, Are You?
It’s time to take action. We’ve compiled an extensive list of veteran resources to start your mission of recovery. And to further eliminate any obstacles to treatment, Willingway is also approved to accept VA health benefits through the Community Care Network. Make sure to ask a member of our admissions team how this helps clear the way to the care you deserve.