Why US Veterans Need Long Term Care for Addiction Treatment
Veterans are the heroes of our nation. Sometimes, though, defending our country comes at a high price. Even when our troops make it home physically healthy, many experience psychological effects after the fact. Here are a few statistics on veterans from different wars, and how often they statistically have PTSD:
31% of Vietnam War veterans have diagnosed PTSD.
10% of Gulf War veterans have diagnosed PTSD.
11% of veterans of the war in Afghanistan have diagnosed PTSD.
20% of Iraqi War veterans have diagnosed PTSD.
Veterans’ Dual Diagnosis
Among these brave men and women, many of them will have a dual diagnosis, at some point in life. For example, many veterans living with PTSD also receive a diagnosis of anxiety, depression, or addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. These conditions are not mutually exclusive. A veteran with PTSD may have some, all, or none.
The VA (Veterans Affairs) provides limited free treatment options for veterans experiencing addiction. In addition, benefits cover some long-term, private programs through military Tricare. Private facilities often offer treatment programs specifically geared toward recovering veterans. Long-term programs (30-90 days) have statistically greater chances of success in persons experiencing addiction.
Veterans’ PTSD is the most notable cause of PTSD in America. However, many people suffer from PTSD, and can have the same outcomes of dual diagnosis and addiction. Notably, first responders and trauma medical professionals receive diagnosis of PTSD at an ever-increasing rate. Here are a few examples of individuals at risk for developing PTSD:
Trauma surgeons and nurses
Individuals who have experienced sexual abuse, domestic violence, or child abuse
Individuals who experienced mugging, robbery, or breaking and entering
Individuals who had a near-death experience
Individuals who have been in an accident, particularly severe car accidents
Though the statistics are not as extensive as those available for veterans struggling with PTSD, these victims of PTSD also have an increased risk of dual diagnosis and addiction.
Why PTSD Results In Addiction
To understand the reasons why PTSD results in addiction, it is important to understand the symptoms and effects of PTSD. Here are a few:
Intrusive violent and dark thoughts
Avoiding reminders of trauma
Being closed off or anti-social for fear of triggers
Feeling hyper-vigilant and constantly “on guard”
Additionally, here are a few symptoms of a PTSD-induced panic attack or flashbacks:
Heart racing and palpitations
Because these physical and emotional symptoms manifest in such powerful and devastating ways, it is easy to understand why PTSD sufferers turn to substance abuse. For a while, medicating with drugs (prescription or illegal) and alcohol might numb the pain. It could be the key to a good night’s rest or warding off a panic attack.
However, when addiction sets in, the negative emotions and symptoms only intensify. Not only is the individual still dealing with PTSD, they are also dealing with addictive tendencies, withdrawals, shame, and frustration. Because fears and feelings of being a burden are already prevalent in PTSD sufferers, they are often slow to seek help for substance addiction. That is why those who love them make all the difference. Noticing small changes in a friend or family member struggling with PTSD and addiction can save his or her life.
Common Fears with Veteran’s Addiction Treatment and Long-term Recovery
There are two very common reasons why veterans addicted to substances do not seek treatment. Firstly, they may feel like their PTSD diagnosis makes them seem weak, especially compared to friends who did not make it home. They prefer to self-medicate and hide out of shame, not wanting to burden loved ones.
Secondly, addicted veterans do not seek treatment for fear that ceasing substance abuse will re-ignite suppressed symptoms of PTSD. Even if substance use has turned to addiction, it is hard for PTSD sufferers to imagine going back to the horrors of flashbacks they have been trying to stave off.
For these reasons and more, treatment programs geared toward veterans have special and unique approaches. They aim to treat the underlying cause, while finding healthy ways to manage symptoms that resurface.
Treatment Options for Veterans
Maryland Recovery offers a program specifically tailored to fit substance-addicted veterans. This program is also suitable for guardsmen, first responders, and paramedics. If you or someone you love needs help with addiction.
Dr. Bhalavat is Board Certified in General Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, and provides inpatient evaluation and consultation services at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital, Maryland Recovery Partners, and Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center. Dr. Bhalavat’s background includes treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, substance abuse and dementia.
"Maryland Recovery gave me the tools and counseling to accept my past and forge a new future for myself. Life today has a hope and brightness to it that had not experienced before. I got a job and an apartment with the help of Maryland Recovery. I am able to be part of my family’s life again."
— Robert M
"I am certain that this program helped save my life. I was provided with an opportunity to learn how to live a sober life. I learned to be responsible and accountable for my behavior. When practicing the principles of the program and remaining willing to grow on this journey, I experience a freedom I never knew, but always wanted."
— Morgan S
"The only things that I knew when I arrived at Maryland Recovery (MR) was that I was broken: spiritually, emotionally, and physically broken and that my way of doing things had gotten me there. The people at MR understood who I was better than I did. They assured me that I was not alone, with that came a glimpse of hope and some relief."
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