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Signs of Addiction in Veterans & How to Get Help for a Loved One


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Matt Biekert

Matt was born and raised in North Stonington, Connecticut. He has always been a close-knit family guy. When he is not working you can find him outside, playing sports, being a prankster and enjoying a great laugh. His favorite hobbies are playing golf, photography and travel. Matt had his own struggles with addiction and is very proud to share his story of recovery and his passion for the mission of Acqua. He found his way to Acqua in search of treatment – he was actually our second patient!! He was very excited to join our team on his 1 year sobriety anniversary. He likes to say that he helped open the center (as a patient) and we have never been able to get rid of him! [Editor’s note: we hope we keep him forever.] He began at Acqua by helping create a small, Alumni program, and then transitioned to Outreach and marketing, which is a natural for him because he loves to connect with people from all walks of life who are seeking help. In February 2018, Matt was promoted to Admissions Director; because he is so passionate about his work he never feels like it is a job to help guide people on the path to recovery.

America’s service members carry the weight of a nation on their shoulders. For many, that burden only increases after discharge, when the transition back to civilian life poses new and unexpected challenges. Paradoxically, moving into a safer, calmer day-to-day life can make the wounds of war even more apparent. Then, as trauma and mental health issues rear their head, far too many turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to numb the pain. Substance use disorder can develop in a matter of weeks. If you are a veteran struggling with drugs or alcohol, or you suspect that you know someone who is, getting help is easier than you might think. But first, how do you know if a veteran truly needs rehab? Understanding the symptoms of addiction in veterans can make the path forward more clear.

What is Addiction? 

To understand the symptoms of addiction in veterans, it’s crucial to understand that addiction is a chronic brain disease. Chronic diseases — like diabetes or hypertension — develop over time as a result of many factors. Genetics, mental health, lifestyle, physiology, and more all play a role. That also means that the disease will continue to get worse over time if it is not addressed. Just like diabetes or cancer, addiction does not get better on its own. It is a serious illness that requires serious medical and clinical care to heal.

Addiction in Veterans

Veterans are particularly susceptible to addiction because they suffer from trauma and mental health difficulties at a higher rate than civilians. In addition, military culture can encourage dangerous behaviors like binge drinking. At the same time, regulations around intoxication can encourage a culture of silence regarding dangerous substance use behavior during service. Back at home, stigma can encourage even further hiding of a developing problem.

Signs of Addiction 

Still, the signs of addiction are obvious if you know what to look for. The most obvious symptoms of addiction fall into categories: physical, behavioral, financial, environmental, and more. 

Drastic physical changes of any kind are cause for concern — whether weight gain, weight loss, or something else. Individual drugs cause different effects, but noticeable shifts are cause for concern. 

The same goes for behavioral issues. If a loved one is suddenly more quiet, more gregarious, happier, or more irritable, there may be substances at play. 

Financial issues like missed bills or creditors calling can be a sign that finances are being spent on acquiring drugs or alcohol. 

Finally, finding drug paraphernalia like spoons, plastic baggies, rolled money, powders, needles, pipes, or tourniquets is a surefire sign that drug use is occurring. 

Overall, it’s important to know that substance use disorder is not diagnosed based solely on how much or how often someone is drinking or using. Rather, the effects of the drinking or drug use can be even more telling. If someone experiences negative effects as a result of their substance use and still continues that behavior, substance use disorder could be at play.

Veterans Addiction Treatment

Veterans addiction treatment addresses the root of substance use disorder to ensure long-term recovery. At Acqua Recovery, we work with vets to heal the trauma and mental health difficulties that may lie underneath the substance use behaviors using innovative modalities like EMDR, CBT, DBT, group therapy, and one-on-one counseling. When science meets sanctuary at our peaceful Utah campus, lasting healing can occur.

Paying for Veterans Addiction Treatment

Residential addiction treatment for veterans may be more affordable than you think. The VA often works with private substance use disorder treatment facilities to treat vets. At the same time, Acqua is in network with TRICARE, TriWest, TRICARE East, Humana Military, and many other major insurance providers. 

Financial insecurity should never be a reason for delaying addiction treatment. Our admissions team has years of experience working with the VA and insurance providers to get veterans and military families the help that they need. Call today to learn more about your options and to begin the journey to renewal, reconnection, and recovery.

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How to Help a Veteran Find Freedom from Addiction

How to Help a Veteran Find Freedom from Addiction

The friends and family of America’s vets understand all too well what it feels like to be consumed with worry and fear for your loved one. When addiction is the foe your vet is facing, it’s even more painful. Addiction is a cunning, baffling, and powerful adversary. Luckily, no one has to face addiction alone – and that includes military families and the loved ones of vets.

Helping a veteran find freedom from addiction is possible for anyone, and it may be even easier than you think.