Understanding Veteran Alcoholism Treatment and Mental Health

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Understanding Veteran Alcoholism Treatment and Mental Health

Understanding Veteran Alcoholism Treatment and Mental Health

Military veterans and active duty service members often experience higher rates of mental health conditions and substance use disorders than the general population. Due to the unique experiences veterans have, they often require specialized treatment options to recover. Veteran alcoholism treatment recognizes the unique mental health concerns that veterans face and can help you or your loved one achieve recovery.

Rates of Alcoholism and Mental Health Issues Among Veterans

Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows the high rates of alcohol abuse and mental health concerns among veterans. According to data from 2020 [1]:

  • 12% of all veterans had a substance use disorder in the past year
  • 19.7% of all veterans had a diagnosis of a mental health disorder
  • 5.7% of all veterans had both a substance use and mental health disorder

The vast majority of veterans living with a substance use disorder had an alcohol addiction. But perhaps the most surprising insight from this data is that few people receive veteran alcoholism treatment. Among the 2.4 million veterans living with a substance use disorder, 91.7% received no treatment whatsoever in the past year.

Treatment rates for mental health concerns are significantly better, but there still exists a massive gap in receiving the services veterans need. Of the 3.9 million veterans with a mental health disorder, 51.1% received no mental health treatment.

How Substance Use and Mental Health Are Connected

To fully understand the scope of alcoholism and mental health concerns in veterans, it’s essential to recognize the connection between mental health and addiction. Mental health disorder diagnoses are common among service members, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from military experience.

Two main theories explain the connection between mental health and substance use:

Self Medication

When people deal with mental health symptoms daily, they often turn to alcohol to cope. This is especially common for people experiencing PTSD symptoms. Using substances to cope with mental health symptoms is known as self-medication, and it can quickly spiral into addiction.

Mental health symptoms can be invasive, persistent, and incredibly uncomfortable. While alcohol can provide some temporary relief, any benefits from drinking alcohol are decidedly short-term and often leave people worse off than they were before. The pathway to addiction through self-medication is relatively straightforward:

  • People experience a mental health symptom
  • They drink to cope with their symptoms
  • Once the alcohol wears off, the mental health symptom returns, often worse than before
  • They drink more alcohol to deal with the worse symptoms, repeating the cycle indefinitely

This often leaves veterans experiencing both severe mental illness and an alcohol addiction, which typically requires specialized treatment to overcome.

Substance-Induced Mental Health Disorders

But there is another connection between mental health and substance use, known as substance-induced mental health disorders. Often, people who develop an addiction will go on to develop a mental health problem because of their drinking.

An alcohol addiction can cause a wide range of negative symptoms. It can cause relationship problems, financial difficulties, and serious medical health challenges, to name a few. When these problems begin to stack up, it can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, or any number of other mental health challenges.

Veteran Alcoholism and Mental Health

Recovery from addiction and mental health problems requires carefully planned, evidence-based veteran alcoholism treatment that deals with your specific challenges. For veterans, a group of people who have a unique set of experiences and challenges, conventional treatment often fails to address their needs.

At alcohol rehabs explicitly designed for veterans, several services are available to help meet the unique needs of this population. This includes treatments and services such as:

Trauma-Focused Therapy

Experiencing PTSD symptoms during treatment can often cause people to lose confidence in the treatment process. Living through traumatic events, whether it be combat experience, military sexual trauma, or training accidents, can cause ripple effects throughout your entire life. However, they can be treated through trauma-focused therapy.

At Silver Sands Recovery, our dual-diagnosis treatment program can treat both your alcohol use disorder and your trauma at the same time. With multiple options for evidence-based trauma treatment, you can achieve a more holistic sense of recovery.

Veterans-Specific Services

Using services for veterans is an essential component of building a lasting recovery. Military veterans have experiences that civilians often cannot understand — but our multidisciplinary team can.

Among others, we offer services to help homeless veterans find job placements and to bring together veterans-focused support groups that help people through the difficult first stages of recovery.

Evidence-Based Alcohol Treatment

Of course, all of our veterans-focused options are offered alongside the best evidence-based alcohol treatment. Our holistic addiction treatment program offers several different styles of treatment and therapy to help you overcome your addiction, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Group therapy
  • EMDR therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Relapse prevention programs
  • Continuing care post-rehabilitation

Recovering from a substance use disorder is about much more than mere abstinence; it is about teaching our clients how to thrive in their new lives in recovery. From support for mental health concerns to specific skills training to resist relapse, our comprehensive treatment program has everything you need to build a recovery that lasts a lifetime.

Starting Veteran Alcoholism Treatment

Taking the first steps toward treatment can be daunting, but achieving recovery and thriving in your sobriety is possible. At Silver Sands Recovery, our team has dedicated themselves to helping our patients through every stage of the treatment process and has the tools and experience needed to help them achieve the life they want to live.

To learn more about our comprehensive addiction treatment options, explore our website and fill out our confidential online contact form for more information. From the moment you call to the day you are discharged and beyond, our team will be there to help you every step of the way.



[1] https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt37926/2020NSDUHVeteransSlides072222.pdf

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