veteran addiction treatment alcoholism veterans

The VA & Substance Abuse Programs: Getting the Help You Need


Back to main Blog
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.

Substance abuse is an all-too-common problem among our nation’s vets, but both the federal government and private companies have done a lot to address the issue. In recent years, the options for veterans substance abuse programs have multiplied, along with insurance programs like TRICARE to pay for rehab. If you are seeking substance abuse treatment for yourself or for a loved one who is a veteran, a new life is within your grasp — even if it doesn’t feel that way just yet.

Veterans & Substance Abuse

Finding help starts with truly understanding the problem: Why is substance abuse so common among veterans? Studies show that vets suffer from addiction and substance abuse at rates higher than the general population. Depending on the branch of the military, that number can be as high as 33%.

Veterans as a whole suffer from substance abuse at higher rates because of the nature of substance abuse and addiction. Most frequently, substance abuse is only the symptom of deeper wounds: trauma, depression, PTSD, and more. Due to the nature of military service, veterans unfortunately suffer from these maladies more frequently than civilians. Consequently, higher substance abuse is the result.

People suffering from trauma or PTSD — veterans and civilians alike — often turn to substances in the hopes of numbing the pain. Paradoxically, this self-medication creates a vicious cycle: An individual turns to drugs or alcohol to address the symptoms of trauma or PTSD, and the drugs themselves only create more depressive feelings. When one becomes trapped in this vicious cycle, addiction treatment for veterans is the only way out.

Addiction Treatment for Veterans

Addiction treatment for veterans addresses both the substance use disorder and the underlying issues causing it. Therapies like EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprogramming) have been shown to be highly effective in treating PTSD, for example. In addition, talk therapy combined with medication was shown to provide relief to vets in one study. 

At Acqua Recovery, every incoming client of our residential addiction treatment program or IOP receives a customized treatment plan developed to address his or her particular issues, needs, and goals. That plan may include EMDR and talk therapy, as well as group therapy to rebuild connections, experiential therapy to reintroduce the joy of life, and equine therapy to address trauma in an emotionally safe way. Each day of treatment features an array of therapeutic modalities and plenty of down time to process and heal.

In addition, each client is paired with a recovery coach who can help him or her to navigate the process of getting well — both in and out of treatment. 

What is the VA?

The VA is a federal organization that provides resources and support for America’s vets. Substance abuse programs do fall under that mandate. In order to pursue substance abuse treatment through the VA, veterans must first make a general appointment with their primary care practitioner to discuss their substance use. The doctor will conduct a screening exam and recommend next steps depending on his or her findings.

The downside of rehab through the VA is that it’s dependent on the doctor’s recommendation. You might not be able to attend the residential addiction treatment program of your choosing. In addition, any veteran following this path to rehab may be subject to the delays that frequently accompany VA treatment. 

TRICARE for Drug or Alcohol Rehab

Using TRICARE for drug or alcohol rehab is one way to bypass those issues. TRICARE (also known as Triwest or TRICARE East) is a form of supplementary insurance for veterans and military families. TRICARE operates like other insurance providers in that they contract with particular treatment programs to offer care to their clients. Being in-network with TRICARE means that TRICARE has reviewed the program and found it to be professional, innovative, and effective. Next, TRICARE negotiates a flat rate price for its clients who wish to attend residential addiction treatment for veterans at that program.

Acqua Recovery is proud to be in-network with TRICARE, TriWest, TRICARE East, Humana Military, and many other insurance providers. If you’d like to explore addiction treatment for veterans at Acqua Recovery for yourself or a loved one, give us a call or send a chat. Our caring team will answer any questions you may have and find the best route forward for you — even if it is through the VA instead of private care. Our priority is helping veterans find healing from addiction, PTSD, and co-occurring disorders, so they can find reconnection, renewal, and recovery.

Submit a Comment

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.