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Veteran Alcohol Addiction Treatment: Rehab After Military Service

Is one of your family members a military veteran who struggles with drug and alcohol addiction? Fortunately, there are treatment centers across the US that are geared to the unique needs of former armed service members.

Drinking is a problem among active and former military personnel. According to one recent study, nearly 23% of male veterans (and 14% of female veterans) have engaged in binge drinking. Often, this is tied to post-traumatic stress disorder.

So what are the treatment options for veterans seeking help for drug and alcohol addiction?

Substance Abuse Treatment Programs

In veteran substance abuse programs, former military personnel can get help for drug and alcohol addiction. Treatment programs include:


Rehab starts with detox, where the veteran stops consuming alcohol and commits to sobriety. During the first few days, detox is difficult because cravings surge as alcohol clears the body. By day two or day three of detox, the person could easily relapse without the strict supervision of a medical professional.

A veteran struggling with alcohol addiction should only attempt detox at a rehab center. If left unsupervised, he or she could relapse due to cravings. To help get the patient through withdrawal symptoms (stress, nausea), rehab clinicians may administer detox medication such as benzodiazepines.

Residential Inpatient Treatment

After detox, residential inpatient care is the next logical step for veterans trying to overcome drug or alcohol addiction. Treatment programs last 30-90 days and consist of the following:

  • Therapy – Each veteran meets one-on-one with an appointed therapist. Here, the patient reveals his/her substance abuse history and habits. This information forms the basis of the patient’s customized treatment program.
  • Group Meetings – Veterans also meet in groups to discuss their struggles with and triumphs over alcohol abuse. This allows residential inpatients to speak among like-minded people with the same experiences and goals.
  • Health – At inpatient rehab centers, the treatment staff promotes healthy eating and lifestyle habits. This helps patients become more energized and positive in their outlook on life.
  • Wellness activities – Alcohol abuse stems from poor coping skills and a lack of self-restraint. Most people who over-drink lack healthy activities. Wellness activities like equine therapy, art therapy and music therapy enrich the mind, stimulate the imagination and give people new goals.
  • Education – At rehab treatment centers, counselors teach patients about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse, including things about the physical and psychological effects of addiction that aren’t known to the average user.

For long-lasting recovery from substance abuse, most patients stay at treatment centers for 90 days. Most facilities offer separate bedrooms, healthy meals and living amenities. Residential programs allow veterans to get peace of mind in a tranquil setting, away from the pressures of regular life and military service.

Outpatient Programs

Drug and alcohol treatment centers also offer outpatient programs, which cover the same ground as residential treatment programs. The difference is that outpatients sleep at home and come to the facility in the daytime for treatment. There are two basic types of outpatient treatment:

  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) – Full-time treatment consisting of 20 or more hours per week at a treatment center. PHP is good for people with ideal, supervised domestic living situations.
  • Intensive Outpatient Therapy (IOP) – Part-time treatment consisting of 9-19 hours per week. IOP makes it possible for patients to schedule treatment around part-time work schedules.

For people who’ve completed residential rehab, IOP is a suitable step-down program during the transitional phase to real life.


For veterans who complete alcohol rehab, most treatment providers offer aftercare. Whenever the patient needs further encouragement and advice on his or her journey, the center is just a phone call away. Addiction treatment services with aftercare are devoted to the long-term recovery of each patient.

Sober Living

Veterans seeking treatment often need additional help landing on their feet once they leave rehab. Many centers across the US can link graduates of residential rehab programs with sober-living opportunities.

In a sober household, residents do household chores and seek work. Sober households are clean, supervised, structured environments where drugs and alcohol are off-limits. This gives former inpatients time to readjust to society in a stable, low-cost living situation.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Treatment Programs

Drug and alcohol addiction is often tied to co-occurring disorders, such as mental health issues rooted in past trauma. Active duty service members who witness the horrors of combat often return to civilian life with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Another major cause of PTSD is military sexual trauma. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, one in three women and one in fifty men suffer sexual trauma during their time as active duty service members.

Today’s treatment providers take a holistic approach to rehab. They combine alcohol detox and recovery programs with counseling that takes on mental health issues. In programs geared to veterans affairs, PTSD and substance abuse treatment are offered in the same programs.

Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription medications are often abused by former military personnel who cope with chronic pain. Veterans who’ve suffered injuries at war could easily abuse prescription painkillers, which are rendered less effective when the user exceeds the daily dosage.

Prescription drug abuse is problematic because overuse leads to tolerance, which causes dependency. Increased overuse is dangerous for the heart, especially when mixed with alcohol. During alcohol detox, treatment doctors may administer anti-addiction meds to wean patients off both prescription drugs and alcohol.

In rehab treatment, patients undergo physical therapy and use healthy, herbal remedies to overcome physical pain.

Veteran Substance Abuse: Get Help Today

As more military service people return from active duty, veterans with substance abuse issues are an ever-growing problem.

Fortunately, alcohol and drug addiction treatment programs are springing up nationwide to offer help to veterans seeking addiction treatment.

If one of your family members is a veteran who struggles with drug addiction, alcohol abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders, explore the treatment options in your area. Act now before it’s too late.

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