One of the most complicated issues regarding addiction treatment for veterans is a pervasive code of silence. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that “Zero-tolerance policies, lack of confidentiality, and mandatory random drug testing that might deter drug use can also add to stigma, and could discourage many who need treatment from seeking it.”
Why the Conflict?
Military personnel who experience combat exposure, frequent deployments, and service-related injuries have the greatest risk of developing substance use disorder (SUD) and/or alcohol use disorder (AUD). So why might they avoid treatment?
- A common belief that requesting help for SUD, AUD, or co-occurring mental health issues would “negatively affect their military career,” according to the NIDA.
- Additionally, “service members can face dishonorable discharge and even criminal prosecution for a positive drug test, which can discourage illicit drug use.”
- An inability to face the caustic reality of addiction, its contributing factors, and the requirements of treatment creates a rippling effect for men and women in the armed forces—as well as their families and friends.
- A history of some branches not handling SUD concerns well, which magnifies the mistrust, secrecy, and self-reliance.
The NIDA reports that more than one in 10 veterans have been diagnosed with SUD in recent years, and binge drinking among active military personnel and veterans is higher than the general population. Additionally, “the veteran population is also greatly impacted by several critical issues related to substance use, such as pain, suicide risk, trauma, and homelessness.”
Stats Regarding Veterans
It’s estimated between 37 and 50 percent of Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Delayed treatment combined with addiction comorbidity makes wellness even more elusive.
Vance A. Raham (U.S. Air Force) is board-certified in addiction medicine and the medical director at Willingway. In his experience, military personnel also struggle with:
- Underlying issues such as chronic pain, PTSD, and trauma, which can lead to over-medication with controlled medications.
- Extended exposure to certain medications, which creates higher risk of addiction.
- Decreased functionality caused by the medications, which results in poor social functioning and financial problems.
“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.”
Read more about Raham’s personal approach to addiction treatment for veterans.
Your New Mission: Seek Resources for Quality Care
At some point, courage takes the form of acknowledging there’s a problem. Using a warrior’s spirit to face it head-on and take the necessary steps for better health is what will bring about change.
Far too often, many people think they’re alone with their pain and struggles. But many military members bravely speak up now about PTSD, complicated grief, mental health conditions, and addiction. This extends a unit of care, support, and relatability.
For example, at Make the Connection, you’ll find hundreds of stories of people overcoming trauma and addiction, improving relationships, rebuilding their lives, and more. Or do a deep dive into the various programs of the Gary Sinise Foundation, which not only honors servicemembers and first responders, but also highlights their perseverance and fortitude to overcome obstacles. There’s also the National Veterans Foundation, which provides a gateway to various services in a “vet-to-vet service model” so individuals feel heard and understood.
Willingway honors our country’s servicemembers by recognizing their sacrifices and providing an extensive list of resources that help provide a new direction.
Effective Addiction Treatment at Willingway
The board-certified professionals at Willingway follow distinct protocols to help active service members, first responders, veterans, and their families receive the attention they deserve.
Through the Tactical Recovery program, a partnership with the non-profit PsychArmor, Willingway creates a culturally competent and trauma-informed environment, using evidence-based practices to customize care for each individual—proven to promote long-lasting recovery and effective condition management.
You or a loved one can also be assured that after treatment, you’ll have a reliable unit of aftercare support, with ongoing resources in your hometown to support your needs for a lifetime.
If you or someone you love is in immediate crisis, please call one of these hotlines: