The shame associated with addiction is one of the many reasons people, especially military service members, refuse to seek treatment. Constant exposure to combat and other traumatic events often contributes to developing substance use disorders (SUDs). Many service members turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or depression. Military service members’ environments can be highly stressful, with extended hours, combat exposure, separation from loved ones, and frequent deployments. These everyday stressors could cause a service member to start drinking or using drugs to cope or feel better.
Military drug rehab is a specialized treatment for active military members struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol. Addiction treatment programs focus on the unique needs of their patients, including specialized therapies, programs, and resources to treat addiction. Rehab centers provide a supportive, therapeutic environment for patients to address their addiction and gain the skills to remain sober. This includes access to evidence-based treatments, such as medication-assisted treatment (MAT), partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which has proven effective in treating substance use disorders (SUDs).
Overcoming the Stigma for Military Members and Rehab Treatment
Addiction is a complex condition with many contributing factors and, due to the stressors of military life, is especially prevalent among service members. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a stigma that paints addiction as a sign of weakness or immorality and often prevents individuals from seeking the help they need. To break the barrier, it is crucial to educate both service members and the public about addiction and the various factors that can contribute to it.
Drug rehab programs often provide personalized care to active-duty service members (ADSMs) and veterans to treat their specific needs and situations. Removing the negative perceptions associated with substance abuse and making resources available to those struggling with addiction is imperative for them to receive the care they need.
Understanding the Problem
Many people are unaware of the severe psychological and emotional effects that military service can have on active members. Each individual’s unique experience can be profoundly traumatic, leading to long-term physical and mental health issues. Military service can cause feelings of isolation, guilt, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It can also lead to difficulty transitioning back to civilian life, substance abuse, and social problems. Recognizing the unique challenges service members face is essential in providing them with the support and resources needed for recovery.
Normalizing military members seeking treatment for mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or substance use disorders (SUDs), is essential for their well-being and overall functioning of the military. In doing this, military members can feel more comfortable reaching out for help and are more likely to receive treatment. Creating a culture of acceptance and understanding validates that mental health issues and addiction are universal and successfully treated. Military members should feel safe and supported in seeking help and treatment to cope with daily stressors and challenges.
Addressing Myths and Misconceptions
Addressing the misconceptions associated with military members and substance abuse could better help improve the societal stigma. Society misunderstands that substance abuse is not exclusive to the military and is a problem affecting many people. Military members are not more likely to abuse substances than those not in the military—and they are no less of a soldier if they do. The truth is that addiction is a problem that affects people of all backgrounds and walks of life. Educating ourselves about the realities of substance abuse can help create a more supportive environment for those struggling.
Using Positive Language
Using positive language when discussing addiction and military members can be essential to breaking the stigma surrounding these issues. Positive language can help shift the focus from the negative aspects of the matter to the potential for positive outcomes. Labeling someone as an “addict” or a “junkie” pushes people away from seeking and receiving the treatment they need. Using person-first language that emphasizes the individual’s humanity and potential for recovery will encourage them to focus on their strengths and capabilities.
Re-framing how we talk about addiction can help emphasize the courage, strength, and resilience of military members facing addiction and remove the associated stigma.
Providing Accessible Resources
Providing resources for active military members struggling with addiction and mental health could significantly improve their personal and professional life. Substance abuse and mental health issues can contribute to poor job performance, safety risks, and difficulty maintaining relationships with family and friends. Military members may face isolation, stress, and depression due to their service, which can exacerbate addiction and mental health issues. Supplying accessible resources for service members can help them identify and address these issues to manage their addiction and mental health.
The Department of Defense provides outlets and resources for those battling substance addiction to receive assistance and treatment. Military bases, for instance, typically offer free psychotherapy and counseling to active-duty service members (ADSMs). These military services are provided to ultimately grant service members a healthier, happier, and more productive life.
Creating a Supportive Culture
Creating a more supportive culture and environment surrounding drug and alcohol addiction and military service members requires a comprehensive approach. Educating on the signs and symptoms of addiction, creating safe and confidential spaces to discuss the effects of addiction, and connecting service members to professionals who can offer support are all ways to help break the barrier. Recognizing the unique challenges that military members face when dealing with addiction, such as stigma and perception, can create a culture of understanding. A supportive community that empowers active military members strongly motivates them to seek treatment and celebrate their recovery.
- Rock Recovery Center, 2023. The Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for First Responders.
- Military One Source, 2020. Military Policy and Treatment for Substance Use.