TRIWEST Rehab for Veterans & Active Military
While drug and alcohol use is a problem in the civilian population, it seems to hit members of the military and veterans especially hard. As with the population in general, there is a high rate of alcohol use disorder (AUD) among the military and former military in relation to the number of military personnel as a whole. The numbers show that just over 13% of active military meet the criteria for AUD when screened.
Discussion surrounding substance misuse and problem drinking gets confusing at times. Is someone who drinks a little too much on occasion in danger of developing alcohol dependency? Where does binge drinking fit into the topic?
Another big issue is the question of when treatment is indicated and how you’re going to pay for it.
Abuse vs Dependence: What’s the Difference?
Words like “abuse” and “addiction” can get thrown around to the point where they have little meaning. A young soldier who binge drinks regularly could be said to abuse alcohol, but at what point does he or she become dependent on alcohol whether it’s to cope with stress or to ward off withdrawal?
In the realms of use disorders, dependence is indicated when:
• There’s a high tolerance level built over time; it takes more intoxicating substances to achieve the same effect as when consumption first began.
• Someone feels the need to drink or use just to feel “normal.”
• You lose the ability to refuse a drink or control their intake once a session begins.
• You crave your substance of choice and/or become preoccupied with consuming drugs or acquiring alcohol.
• You experience physical and emotional symptoms when you can’t use, such as problems focusing, hand or head shakes, and anxiety or irritability.
If the activity continues despite negative consequences or health problems stemming from excessive drinking/substance use, dependence has transitioned to addiction. When the behavior persists or worsens over a period of at least 12 months, it’s considered a disorder.
Denial is part and parcel of most use disorders. When you or someone you care about is struggling with a substance use disorder, it’s important to find help and support as soon as possible.
Signs of Alcohol/Substance Use Disorder
Substance use disorder doesn’t have a singular cause. Anyone who regularly consumes drugs or alcohol can become dependent on them or develop a use disorder.
Whether you’re at higher risk for using or not, there are signs that substance use has become more than a social habit.
Dependence or addiction may be indicated if:
- You have trouble saying no or stopping after that first drink or dose.
- You feel like you should curb your consumption.
- Other people start to question your drinking/drug habits.
- You spend too much time thinking about using or acquiring intoxicating substances.
- You use even though it’s causing problems at home, during work, or in school.
- Drinking or drug use interferes with work, school, or family obligations, for example, excessive tardiness or absenteeism, missing important dates or appointments, etc.
- You limit social interactions or miss events so you can drink/get high.
- You begin to experience relationship, legal, or financial problems due to drug or alcohol use.
- You need to consume more during each session to experience intoxication.
- You experience physical or emotional discomfort when you can’t drink or use.
One of the hardest decisions you’ll make is deciding to quit using and face life sober. Part of that fear stems from the unknown. Drinking and drug use affect how your brain functions, and the thought of life without drugs or alcohol can be scary when an altered state becomes your normal.
Then, there is the known fear of how you’ll feel when you can’t take just one more hit or drink. Withdrawal can cause extreme physical and emotional discomfort that’s hard to deal with unless you have help and support.
Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms can range from very mild to severe. On the moderate end of the spectrum, you’ll feel anxious and begin the crave drugs or alcohol. You could also feel shaky, depressed, or tired and have trouble concentrating or following even a simple routine. Sweating and sleep disturbances are also common as are mood swings and loss of appetite.
Treatment Options for AUD/SUD
There are a variety of treatment options no matter the scope or severity of the problem. These range from free 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to long-term residential treatment or sober living homes.
Outpatient care is recommended for those who are highly motivated toward sobriety and have an adequate support system at home. Inpatient treatment or partial hospitalization is recommended for those with severe use disorders, long-term dependence, are at risk for relapse, or have relapsed in the past.
Hospitalization can range from a 30-day stay at a rehab center or up to a year in an inpatient rehab. Inpatient facilities offer a home-like atmosphere, but the client has 24/7 access to medical care and supervision.
Regardless of where you receive treatment, it will usually include an initial intake and detox period of one to three days. That will be followed by an assessment of your condition and treatment planning.
Medically assisted treatment (MAT) is common for managing moderate to severe AUD/SUD and withdrawal. According to the American Psychological Association, medications such as naltrexone reduce cravings and help the client maintain abstinence. Other medications may be used during the withdrawal phase in order to ease any pain, discomfort, and other physical/emotional symptoms.
The withdrawal phase of detox usually lasts from 48 hours to one week, but cravings may continue for many months after the initial treatment is completed. That’s why rehabilitation and aftercare support are so important for continued sobriety.
Barriers to Treatment
One of the greatest barriers to alcohol use disorder treatment is cost.
Although the Affordable Care Act mandates that insurance must cover mental health-related treatment, including rehab, the sad fact is that access may be limited for veterans unless they have some sort of health insurance.
In 2015, the US Department of Veterans Affairs revised the guidelines for addiction treatment, which included approving certain medications to treat AUD and SUD. However, the approved medications are given to only about 35% of veterans who meet the criteria for SUD.
If you’re uninsured, Medicaid will pay for treatment, but only up to a certain amount. Private insurance will cover treatment, but a substantial portion of the expense may need to come out of your pocket in the form of copays, deductibles, or the price of medications to treat AUD and other substance use disorders.
Veterans like you may qualify for treatment under VA-administrated insurance plans.
TRIWEST Insurance Coverage and Access to Rehab for Veterans
As a military veteran, you have several other options for insurance coverage. For example, many qualify for coverage under the TRIWEST Healthcare Alliance.
TRIWEST is a third-party insurance provider that administers care for veterans who are enrolled in the VA Community Care Network (VACCN) but are unable to access VA services or qualify for other insurance. The VACCN works under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The purpose is to fill the gaps for military veterans who need help with medical or mental health issues that aren’t served by the VA.
Its stated goals are to:
- Streamline VA care programs and combine them to improve access
- Establish positive working relationships with community providers
- Decrease wait times for services
To determine if you qualify for coverage under the TRIWEST insurance plan, it’s important to distinguish TRIWEST from other active military and veteran insurance coverage options.
TRIWEST is a subsidiary administered under TriCare, which is the insurance network used by active-duty military personnel. TRIWEST is one of the plans for veterans who are unable to qualify for care under the VA as well as those with no access to VA facilities or care providers.
Once you understand what TRIWEST is and who it covers, the next step is to find out if you’re eligible to receive SUD/AUD treatment under the Community Care Network.
First of all, you must legally reside in VACCN regions 4 and 5, which comprise Guam, Alaska, and all states in the Western United States. The Department of Veterans Affairs determines eligibility for services on an individual basis.
- In addition to the above, rehab is available through TRIWEST if:
- There is no VA facility located in your area
- You’re grandfathered in due to eligibility under previous guidelines
- The services you need are unavailable from the VA, or they’re unable to provide adequate care in your case
- The services you need are unavailable from a VA facility
The insurance will cover all or a portion of AUD/SUD-related treatment in VA-approved facilities, including:
- Inpatient rehab
- Outpatient treatment
- Group therapy
- Partial hospitalization
- Medical management
FDA-approved medications to manage drug or alcohol dependence
Medications used for MAT that are approved by the VA and TRIWEST include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. The first two medications help manage opioid addiction, and naltrexone can be used for opioid treatment and AUD.
How to Find Help
If you or someone close to you needs help with alcohol dependence or SUD, you’re not alone. Millions of active-duty military and veterans in the same position have found lasting sobriety and support through VeteransRehab.org.
Reach out to your doctor, local mental health community, or local VA contact person for more information about rehab and other mental health resources in your community.