Drug Rehab for Active Duty Military Personnel

Author: Robert Rynfield | Clinical Reviewer: Emily Meyers, LPC | Editorial Policy Updated: June 14, 2024

Comprehensive Drug Treatment for Military Service Members at Longbranch Recovery

Are you struggling with substance abuse as an active duty military member? Do you feel like you’re fighting a battle on two fronts – one against your addiction and another against the unique challenges of military life? You’re not alone. 

Substance abuse is a significant problem among military personnel, with rates of drug and alcohol use exceeding those of the general population. The demanding nature of military service, combined with the trauma and stress often experienced by service members, can create a perfect storm for addiction to take hold.

But there is hope. By understanding the factors that contribute to substance abuse in the military and seeking specialized treatment, you can break free from the grip of addiction and reclaim your life.  At Longbranch Recovery & Wellness Center, we’re here to support you every step of the way, offering compassionate, evidence-based care tailored to the unique needs of active duty military personnel.

What are the Common Causes of Substance Abuse in the Military?

military helmet after work

The military lifestyle is inherently challenging, with long hours, high-stress situations, and extended periods away from family and support systems. These factors can take a toll on even the most resilient individuals, making them more vulnerable to substance abuse as a coping mechanism.

How Does Military Life Contribute to Substance Use Disorder?

Active duty military personnel face a wide range of stressors that can contribute to the development of substance use disorders. Deployment to combat zones, exposure to traumatic events, and the constant pressure to perform at a high level can all take a heavy emotional and psychological toll.

Long periods of separation from loved ones, combined with the culture of heavy drinking that often exists in the military, can also increase the risk of developing a substance abuse problem.

Link Between PTSD and Substance Abuse in Active Duty Military Personnel

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common mental health condition among military personnel, particularly those who have been exposed to combat or other traumatic events. Studies have shown that individuals with PTSD are more likely to develop substance abuse problems, as they may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate and cope with their symptoms.

The combination of PTSD and substance abuse can create a vicious cycle, with each condition exacerbating the other. As the individual continues to use substances to numb their pain, their PTSD symptoms may worsen, leading to even greater reliance on drugs or alcohol. Breaking this cycle requires specialized treatment that addresses both the substance abuse and the underlying trauma.

Commonly Abused Drugs for Military Service Members

While alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among military personnel, illicit drug use is also a significant problem. Some of the most commonly abused drugs include:

  • Prescription opioids: Used to treat pain, these highly addictive medications are often overprescribed and can quickly lead to dependence.
  • Stimulants: Drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine may be used to increase alertness and combat fatigue, but they can also lead to serious health problems and addiction.
  • Marijuana: While attitudes towards marijuana use are shifting, it remains illegal under federal law and can result in disciplinary action for active duty military members.
  • Benzodiazepines: These prescription sedatives, often used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, can be highly addictive and dangerous when combined with other substances.

Regardless of the specific substance being abused, seeking help is crucial. Substance abuse can have a profound impact on an individual’s health, relationships, and military career, making it essential to address the problem as early as possible.

Why is Drug Rehab Crucial for Active Duty Military Personnel?

Substance abuse can have far-reaching consequences for active duty military personnel, affecting their health, relationships, and ability to perform their duties effectively. Seeking professional treatment is essential for overcoming addiction and preventing these negative outcomes.

The Importance of Drug Addiction Treatment

Drug addiction is a complex disease that requires professional intervention. Attempting to quit on one’s own can be difficult and often leads to relapse. Drug rehab programs provide a structured, supportive environment where individuals can focus on their recovery and develop the skills and strategies needed to maintain long-term sobriety.

For active duty military personnel, drug addiction treatment is particularly important. Substance abuse can impair judgment, reaction time, and decision-making abilities, putting the individual and their fellow service members at risk. By seeking help, individuals can address their addiction, improve their overall health and well-being, and better serve their country.

Impact on Military Personnel and Their Families

Substance abuse doesn’t just affect the individual struggling with addiction; it can also have a profound impact on their loved ones. Family members may experience emotional distress, financial strain, and relationship problems as a result of their loved one’s substance abuse.

Military families face unique challenges, such as frequent relocations and prolonged separations due to deployment. When a family member is struggling with addiction, these challenges can be even more difficult to navigate. Seeking treatment not only benefits the individual but also helps to heal and strengthen the entire family unit.

Addressing Drug Abuse and Mental Health Together

Many active duty military personnel who struggle with substance abuse also have co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD. These conditions can contribute to the development of addiction and make recovery more challenging.

Effective drug rehab programs for military personnel must address both the substance abuse and any underlying mental health concerns. This comprehensive approach, known as dual diagnosis treatment, helps individuals develop healthy coping strategies, process trauma, and build a strong foundation for lasting recovery.

What Types of Rehabilitation Programs are Available for Military Personnel?

Active duty military personnel have access to a range of drug rehabilitation programs, each with its own unique features and benefits. Understanding the different options can help individuals make an informed decision about which type of treatment is right for them.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Drug Rehab Options

Inpatient drug rehab programs provide a structured, immersive environment where individuals can focus solely on their recovery. Patients live at the treatment facility for the duration of the program, which typically lasts 30, 60, or 90 days. Inpatient rehab is often recommended for individuals with severe addictions or co-occurring mental health disorders.

Outpatient drug rehab programs allow individuals to receive treatment while continuing to live at home and fulfill their work and family obligations. Patients attend therapy sessions and support groups at the treatment facility several times a week. Outpatient rehab can be a good option for individuals with mild to moderate addictions or those who have completed an inpatient program and need ongoing support.

Specialized Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs for Military

Specialized drug and alcohol treatment programs for military personnel are designed to address the unique challenges and experiences of this population. These programs may be located on or near military bases and are often staffed by professionals who have experience working with military members and veterans.

Specialized military rehab programs may incorporate elements such as:

  • Trauma-informed care to address the impact of combat exposure and other military-related stressors
  • Family therapy to help repair and strengthen relationships strained by addiction
  • Group therapy with other military members who can relate to and support one another
  • Alternative therapies, such as yoga or art therapy, to promote stress reduction and emotional healing

By choosing a specialized military rehab program, active duty personnel can receive care that is tailored to their specific needs and experiences, increasing the likelihood of a successful recovery.

group of men belonging to the army

How Can Families Support Their Loved Ones Through Drug Addiction Treatment?

When a loved one is struggling with drug addiction, it can be a challenging and emotional time for the entire family. However, family support can play a crucial role in the recovery process, helping to encourage and motivate the individual as they work towards sobriety.

Understanding the Risk of Substance Use in the Military

The first step in supporting a loved one through drug addiction treatment is to educate yourself about the unique risks and challenges faced by military personnel. By understanding the factors that contribute to substance abuse in the military, such as combat exposure, PTSD, and the stress of deployment, you can develop a greater sense of empathy and compassion for your loved one’s struggle.

Providing Emotional Support During Rehabilitation

During the rehabilitation process, your loved one will need your emotional support more than ever. This can involve:

  • Listening without judgment and offering words of encouragement
  • Attending family therapy sessions to work through relationship challenges and build stronger bonds
  • Celebrating milestones and successes, no matter how small
  • Reminding your loved one that you are there for them and believe in their ability to recover

By providing a stable, loving presence, you can help your loved one stay motivated and committed to their recovery journey.

Encouraging Long-Term Sobriety Post-Rehab

Recovery from drug addiction is a lifelong process that extends beyond the initial rehabilitation program. As your loved one transitions back to daily life, it’s essential to continue providing support and encouragement.

This can involve helping them find sober housing, assisting with job searches, or simply being available to listen and offer guidance when needed. Encouraging your loved one to attend support group meetings, such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous, can also help them maintain their sobriety and build a network of peers who understand their struggles.

Breaking the Stigma Surrounding Substance Abuse in the Military

One of the greatest barriers to seeking treatment for substance abuse in the military is the stigma surrounding mental health and addiction. Many military members fear that admitting to a problem will negatively impact their career or reputation.

As a family member, you can help break this stigma by treating your loved one’s addiction as a medical condition, not a moral failing. Encourage open and honest communication about their struggles, and remind them that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

The Role of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Drug Addiction Among Members of the Armed Forces

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after exposure to a traumatic event, such as combat, sexual assault, or a serious accident. PTSD is particularly common among military personnel, with studies suggesting that up to 20% of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from the condition.

The Connection Between PTSD and Substance Abuse

PTSD and substance abuse often go hand in hand, with many individuals turning to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with their symptoms. The symptoms of PTSD, which can include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and depression, can be overwhelming and difficult to manage without professional help.

calm woman after attending to her addiction problems

Substance abuse can provide temporary relief from these symptoms, but ultimately exacerbates the problem. As tolerance to the substance develops, individuals may find themselves using larger amounts or more frequently, leading to addiction.

Effective Coping Strategies for Active Duty Military Personnel

To break the cycle of PTSD and substance abuse, it’s essential for active duty military personnel to develop healthy coping strategies. This can involve:

  • Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation
  • Engaging in regular exercise, which can help reduce stress and improve mood
  • Seeking support from friends, family members, or a therapist
  • Participating in hobbies or activities that bring joy and a sense of purpose
  • Challenging negative thoughts and beliefs related to the traumatic event

By learning to manage the symptoms of PTSD in healthy ways, military members can reduce their reliance on substances and improve their overall quality of life.

Longbranch Recovery & Wellness Center understands the unique challenges faced by active duty military personnel struggling with PTSD and substance abuse. Our team of compassionate, experienced professionals is here to provide the comprehensive, evidence-based care you need to heal and reclaim your life.