Why Veteran Alcohol Rehab Is So Important
If you have served in the U.S. military, you have likely noticed the heavy drinking culture present among enlisted personnel and officers. Many military-oriented events promote alcohol availability and provide a drinking environment as a means for building camaraderie among personnel. Pubs, bars, and other alcohol-serving venues surround military bases, adding convenience to drinking after work hours. Even the bases themselves serve alcohol at restaurants and pubs operated by the military for profit within their gates. Together, both the drinking culture and availability of alcohol can lead much personnel to an alcohol use disorder and the need for veteran alcohol rehab.
Alcohol Abuse Is Common Among Military Veterans
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, alcohol abuse starts early in a military recruit’s career. Rates of heavy drinking are higher for active-duty military personnel than for civilians of the same age. A study published in the National Library of Medicine also acknowledges the big problem that alcohol use presents among military members. This study blames military culture, boredom, loneliness, and stress as big reasons why people develop drinking problems while serving their country. Almost one-third of military vets need veteran alcohol rehab.
Regardless of why they start drinking, many veterans realize they cannot stop their heavy alcohol use after leaving military service. For vets who have served in combat situations or suffered other traumas, alcohol abuse is made more complex when it’s in combination with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or other comorbid mental health conditions. Many realize they cannot stop drinking on their own. They realize that they need help from a licensed veteran alcohol rehab, one that understands the unique needs of military vets seeking recovery. That help is found at VeteransRehab.org.
What Is an Alcohol Use Disorder?
Having an alcohol use disorder (AUD) means you cannot stop drinking alcohol on your own, despite knowing that drinking causes problems in your life. The resulting problems that make you want to quit may be social, health, or work-related concerns. In fact, despite being a proud military veteran with AUD, you likely find that you’re unable to perform as well at work as you know you can if it weren’t for the alcohol. Your home life and relationships also suffer from your alcohol use. Even if you are unaware of any present health problems, your health is suffering, too.
Although many think alcohol use disorder is a drinking habit or lack of willpower, it is a medical condition. It is a brain disorder that involves actual physical changes to the brain and how it functions. Even if you quit drinking for some time on your own, without the right treatment, you still face a high vulnerability to relapse. That is the nature of AUD, which is a condition that can be successfully treated, for many vets, in veteran alcohol rehab.
How Alcohol Use Disorder Begins
Alcohol use disorder develops from routine drinking, binge drinking, or heavy alcohol use over time. Anyone can suffer from this condition; it affects people from all walks of life and in all life stages. Military members and veterans are particularly likely to experience AUD. This likelihood relates to their high exposure to alcohol on a long-term basis. As indicated through the Department of Defense studies reported above, military personnel live and work in a culture of heavy drinking.
Other factors that relate to the development of an alcohol use disorder include:
- Starting drinking at an early age
- Family history of alcohol abuse
- Mental health conditions and trauma
Alcohol addiction can take hold at any time in an individual’s life. Even military members who drank heavily during their active duty service may not notice they have a problem until after discharge or retirement. Others struggle to keep up with the demands of active military service because of their drinking. Whether you started drinking at a young age, between deployments, or after leaving active duty, veteran alcohol rehab is tailored to the unique needs, experiences, and culture of the military and veteran lifestyle. Being among peers who understand your journey and needs makes recovery so much easier.
Symptoms of an Alcohol Use Disorder
According to the DSM-5, used by healthcare professionals toward the diagnosis of alcohol use disorders, symptoms can appear mild, moderate, or severe. To understand the severity of your AUD, your doctor or another healthcare provider may ask you a series of questions. These questions relate to how alcohol affects your daily life and also will likely touch on a variety of AUD symptoms.
Symptoms of an alcohol use disorder include:
- Drinking more or longer than intended
- Desire to stop drinking, but failure to do so
- Spending most of your free time drinking or getting over the ill effects of alcohol
- Craving alcohol often
- Neglecting relationships and personal responsibilities because of drinking
- Declining quality of work or school performance
- Continuing to drink despite complaints from family or friends
- Loss of interest in favorite activities or hobbies
- Doing risky behaviors, like driving after drinking, walking in dangerous areas, or engaging in unprotected sex
- Drinking despite feelings of depression, anxiety, or other health problems
- Drinking to the point of memory blackout
- Having to drink more alcohol to feel the desired effects or being able to drink much more than before
- Suffering withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
The more symptoms you or your loved one suffers from the list above, the more severe the alcohol use disorder; if suffering from multiple symptoms, this means there is an urgent need for veteran alcohol rehab.
Can a Veteran Quit Alcohol on Their Own?
Quitting drinking is not easy once alcohol dependence has set in. After drinking for much of your life or even just over weeks of heavy consumption, you risk a variety of dangerous withdrawal symptoms when you do stop drinking. This withdrawal occurs because your central nervous system has had to adapt to the presence of alcohol in your body. Your brain had changed how it functions to work with alcohol. Stopping your alcohol consumption forces the brain to again change how it works, leading to the side effects you feel, known as alcohol withdrawal.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal, like an alcohol use disorder, ranges from mild to severe, depending on how much you drank and how often. Withdrawal symptoms also occur in stages from the time you take your last drink.
Within 6 to 12 Hours
In the first six to 12 hours after your last drink, early alcohol withdrawal symptoms begin. These symptoms include:
• Hand tremors
12 to 48 Hours
In the 12 to 48 hours after your last drink, symptoms can become more severe. Some of these dangerous symptoms include:
48 to 72 Hours
For people with a severe alcohol use disorder, delirium tremens (DTs) can start during this timeframe. DTs are a collection of dangerous symptoms experienced by only about 5% of people going through alcohol withdrawal. DTs occur because of how alcohol has affected your central nervous system, and it now is trying to function without it. Some symptoms of DTs include:
• Vivid hallucinations
• Racing heart
• High blood pressure
• Heavy sweating
As you can see, the symptoms experienced during alcohol withdrawal are uncomfortable at best. The worst symptoms endanger your life. Relapse is a big risk for people who feel ill from alcohol withdrawal. For that risk and the ill effects of withdrawal, it is important to seek the care of a veteran alcohol rehab providing alcohol detox services. Being within a controlled environment and supported by healthcare personnel makes for an easier journey through withdrawal to sobriety and your earliest days of recovery.
Treatment Available Through Veteran Alcohol Rehab
If you are one of the almost one-third of military members and veterans who need veteran alcohol rehab, you have a variety of treatment options available to you. These three major types of treatment include medications, behavioral therapies and support groups. In veteran alcohol rehab, you can find all of these within a single program.
Medications, Behavioral Therapies and Support Groups in Rehab
Medications used in some rehabs for alcohol use disorder treatment include naltrexone, acamprosate and disulfiram. But not all veterans in recovery need these prescriptions for a healthy recovery. More important are behavioral therapies, which are designed to treat the root causes of your addiction, such as the trauma that many military members suffer in combat or even during childhood. Behavioral therapies help you work through these issues and also provide coping skills for relapse prevention.
Support groups provided through rehab treatment for veterans include group therapy and 12-step programs. These groups work very well during the treatment and even after you return home when rehab is completed. You can find support groups throughout your community as part of your aftercare. Each rehab facility offers its own array of group therapies and support groups.
Levels of Care in Veteran Alcohol Rehab
There are multiple levels of care available for veteran alcohol rehab. These include:
- Inpatient: Treatment occurring in a hospital setting 24 hours per day for up to 28 days in duration
- Residential Rehab: Treatment involving living at the rehab facility 24 hours per day and seven days per week for an extended period of time, such as three months or more
- Intensive Outpatient (IOP): Comprehensive, residential-level treatment during the day, followed by returning home each night
- Outpatient (OP) Rehab: The least restrictive of rehab program types, with therapies taking place at the facility during the day while continuing to live at home, sometimes used as follow-up care after inpatient or residential rehab programs
- Continuing Community Care: Ongoing support after rehab in your local community, usually facilitated by the rehab program before you leave
Types of Therapy to Look for in Veteran Rehab
There are multiple types of therapy available during rehab. Each facility offers its own array of programs. But it is important to look for evidence-based practices, which have been proven to work for clients seeking alcohol recovery.
Evidence-based therapy methods commonly used in veteran rehabs include:
- Individual counseling
- Group therapy
- 12-step programs
- Family therapy
- Couples counseling
- Behavioral therapies, such as CBT, DBT, and ACT
- Trauma therapy or EMDR
- Dual-diagnosis care for comorbid mental health problems, like depression, PTSD, or anxiety
There is a multitude of methods used for therapy today, such as equine (involving horses), occupational, art, and music. Most of these fall under the category of group therapies. They combine fun activities with therapeutic methods and add variety to the therapeutic routine of rehab.
Finding the Right Veteran Alcohol Rehab for You
The rehab selection process is highly individualized according to your unique needs and preferences. As a former military member seeking veteran alcohol rehab, you can choose which state you prefer to be in for treatment as well as your preferred therapies and level of care. The level of care is also partly determined by your insurance policy and recommendations by your healthcare professionals.
You have many options for seeking alcohol recovery and achieving it in a setting that makes you comfortable. All of these available options and methods are why you should never put off seeking rehab treatment. After all, rehab can save your life and give you a fresh start without the heavy influence of alcohol dependence. Because so many rehabs specialize in veteran alcohol rehab, you can rest assured that your recovery begins among peers who understand you. Find your own ideal veteran alcohol rehab at VeteransRehab.org.