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Published On: August 21, 2023|Categories: Mental Health, Substance Abuse|

For those who have spent time in the military, leaving behind one’s military family, the routines and regimens to re-enter civilian life can be an incredibly difficult transition. Most often, the experiences men and women had in the armed forces leave lasting impressions on them, for better or for worse. 

The challenges of transitioning out of the military combined with potentially traumatic experiences within the military can have significant impacts on mental health. Sadly, this creates alarmingly high numbers of veterans with co-occurring disorders. 

What are Co-Occurring Disorders?

A co-occurring disorder is when an individual with a substance use disorder also suffers from a clinically diagnosed mental health condition. Sometimes these mental health conditions can be the cause of substance use disorder, and this commonly occurs when one attempts to mitigate mental health symptoms with drugs or alcohol. 

Other times, the consequences of the substance use disorder, including financial strains, loss of employment or physical illness, causes the development of a mental health condition. Stress about finances, for example, as a result of addiction may cause increased anxiety, or depression may occur as a result of unsuccessfully trying to stop using substances on one’s own. 

Co-occurring disorders are a particular challenge as both disorders often need to be treated simultaneously in order to successfully reach recovery.

Co-Occurring Disorders and Veterans

Sadly, co-occurring disorders are highly common among veterans. According to a survey completed by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2020: 

  • Millions of veterans struggle with substance use disorder and mental illness
  • Almost three-quarters of veterans with substance use disorder (SUD) struggled with alcohol use
  • One in three veterans with mental illness experienced serious mental illness
  • 1.1 million veterans had both a SUD and mental illness

While substance use also includes the use of illicit drugs, nicotine and prescription opioids, alcohol is one of the most common substances misused throughout the veteran community. 

Additionally, while anxiety and depression are common mental health disorders veterans face, a vast majority battle post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and approximately 80 percent of people with PTSD have a co-occurring disorder.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, “63 percent of those diagnosed with alcohol use disorder (AUD) or other SUD also had a diagnosis of PTSD. Among Veterans diagnosed with AUD and another SUD, the rate of PTSD diagnosis was 76 percent. During the past 10 years, the number of Veterans with comorbid SUD and PTSD in VA care has increased over three-fold; in 2012, the prevalence of PTSD among Veterans receiving specialized SUD care was 32 percent.”

Overcoming a substance use disorder and recovering from the effects of PTSD is incredibly challenging, and it takes time, patience and the right care. Those battling these co-occurring disorders most often have increased physical health challenges, financial stressors and social difficulties, meaning the right level of care is absolutely critical for a successful recovery. 

Co-occurring disorder treatment 

In treatment for co-occurring disorders, veterans are given the chance to receive treatment for and recover from both their mental health conditions and substance use disorders. During their treatment program, they will meet with therapists and other mental health and medical professionals to help regain balance in both their mental and physical health. Through treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and group therapy sessions, they will learn effective coping mechanisms on which to regain their footing.

Outpatient treatment provides a stable and reliable environment in which to regain mental health while allowing clients to return to the comfort of their own homes and families and meet any employment or school obligations.  

Treatment at High Focus Centers

High Focus Centers is a proud partner of the Veterans Affairs Community Care Network (VA-CCN), which are pre-approved facilities that accept veteran benefits and TRICARE, giving veterans timely and convenient access to behavioral healthcare. Each facility in the Community Care Network (CNN) uses industry-standard practices to administer treatment and quickly pay for services.

High Focus Centers treats substance use disorders and mental health disorders in an outpatient setting, where we provide individual, group and family counseling as well as psychiatric services.

To begin your treatment journey today, reach out to High Focus Centers to learn more about our programs. Contact our admissions staff anytime by calling (800) 877-3628 to learn more. 

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