Supporting Vets Through Addiction Recovery

Anyone can develop an addiction, regardless of their background. Veterans are at especially high risk, as a result of stressful deployments, injuries, and trauma, as well as potential difficulty adjusting to civilian life following discharge. On top of that, many Veterans have faced financial struggles, extended time away from loved ones, and loss of military friends to warfare and suicide. 

The unique culture of military life can leave Veterans feeling isolated from civilians and uncomfortable seeking help from programs that might not understand their specific struggles. At Cottonwood in Tucson, Arizona, we are one of less than two dozen programs across the country certified to offer Tactical Recovery, a program developed specifically for Veterans fighting addiction and mental illness. Tactical Recovery was created in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Community Care Network.

Statistics Pertaining to Veterans

The detrimental effects of trauma on warriors have been documented from the beginning of time, including generations of American troops. During WWI, trauma was called, “shell shock” or “neurasthenia.” It was later known as “combat fatigue.” Whatever label is used, trauma is and has been a leading cause of mental illness and addiction among Veterans.

Millions of Veterans have struggled with addiction and mental illness, and the numbers continue to rise each year. Around a quarter of Veterans surveyed in 2020 had either a mental health condition, a substance use disorder, or both. The most effective way to treat a person who has both a mental illness and a substance use disorder is to treat both conditions at the same time. 

Among Veterans diagnosed with substance use disorders:

  • 4 in 10 misused illicit drugs
  • 7 in 10 misused alcohol
  • 1 in 8 misused both

The percentage of Veterans who misused different categories of drugs:

  • Marijuana – 15.2 percent
  • Mental health medications – 3.6 percent
  • Methamphetamines – 1.3 percent
  • Cocaine – 1.2 percent
  • Hallucinogens – 1.2 percent

The rate of suicide among Veterans is about 1.5 times that of the civilian population. Suicides are often accompanied by substance use. Additionally, Veterans are at increased risk for homelessness, which also adds to their risk of attempting to kill themselves.

What Can Be Done?

There are many ways that we can make it easier for Veterans to get the support they need and deserve to address their mental health and substance use concerns:

  • Improving accessibility of treatment by addressing gaps in insurance and offering more treatment options and locations
  • Addressing stigma around mental health and addiction
  • Reducing or removing negative consequences for admitting to needing help
  • Making services confidential, like they are for civilians
  • Ensuring that programs are tailored to the specific needs of Veterans

Outcomes Connected to Untreated Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

Veterans who don’t receive support to get sober and mentally stable are at increased risk for:

  • Medical issues
  • Additional psychiatric diagnoses 
  • Interpersonal problems
  • Employment struggles
  • Increased rate of suicidal thoughts and attempts 

What We Offer Veterans

At Cottonwood, our staff has been trained to provide culturally competent, trauma-informed

care specifically for Veterans, which includes:

  • Individualized care plans that address mental health and addiction needs alongside other concerns that are important to the Veteran
  • Bridge Care services for Veterans who need urgent care when there is not availability at a VA facility
  • Medically monitored detox and withdrawal management
  • Family education and support for a Veteran’s support system
  • Therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), somatic experiencing, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and EMDR – one of the most effective and fast-acting treatments for trauma
  • Aftercare support to help Veterans maintain their recovery after they have completed inpatient treatment. Aftercare includes:
    • Outpatient counseling
    • Referrals for ongoing mental health therapy with private therapists
    • Connections to community-based recovery groups (AA/NA, Celebrate Recovery, SMART Recovery, etc.)
    • Sober living community
    • Relapse prevention 
    • Community resources for housing, food, networking, etc.
    • Free access to the CaredFor app, a secure online resource that allows alumni to connect with, engage, and support each other and gain support from our staff. The app contains a dashboard that tracks a participant’s sobriety time and provides them with articles about recovery. 

We also stay in touch with our program graduates after they are discharged.

Cottonwood Tucson has been delivering high-quality evidence-based treatment in Arizona for 25 years. We believe it is our duty and honor to support those who have served our country and their families.

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