Salute To Recovery: Substance Abuse Recovery for Veterans

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Substance use disorders (SUDs) are a common problem among veterans in the United States, with many of those who have served in the military affected. Unfortunately, mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can worsen SUDs or even cause their development in veterans. Studies suggest that more than one in ten veterans develop a SUD in their lifetime.1

Furthermore, veterans diagnosed with SUDs often meet the criteria for PTSD. In addition to their increased risk for developing SUDs as a result of PTSD, anxiety disorders and depression also increase veterans’ likelihood of engaging in substance abuse. The combination of these psychological challenges can lead to an even greater risk for addiction and other substance-related issues. In a study that explores co-occurring disorders (CODs) in homeless veterans, more than 76% of participants were suffering from at least one mental disorder, with 47% of them suffering from a drug-related disorder. More than one-third of the participants reported having CODs.1,2

Veterans may also experience social issues that can contribute to their risk of developing SUDs including joblessness and homelessness. As such, understanding how psychological factors like PTSD interact with issues like social instability is key to providing effective treatment for this segment of the population.1

Professional help for struggling veterans is available. A specialized program for veteran recovery from SUDs, Salute to Recovery, is a reputable program with an evidence-based approach. The program was designed with the veterans’ specific challenges and circumstances in mind, with the treatment approach taking into account potential CODs, the struggling individual’s military background, potential trauma and social issues.3

What Is the Salute To Recovery Program?

Salute To Recovery is a unique program designed to provide veterans suffering from substance abuse with the tools and resources necessary for long-term recovery. It offers an all-encompassing approach to healing by providing both physical and psychological care for veterans that suffer from SUDs.3

The Salute to Recovery program includes access to primary care doctors, psychiatrists, licensed clinical social workers, certified alcohol and drug counselors, and certified peer support specialists. Through these services, some struggling veterans may be able to learn how to cope with their trauma, recover from their SUDs and maintain sobriety and a stable mental state.3

Salute To Recovery also offers a variety of evidence-based treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and more. These treatments are specifically tailored to meet the needs of each individual veteran in order for them to learn new coping skills and behaviors that can help them better manage their SUDs. Additionally, the program may include additional resources such as educational materials about addiction and recovery, as well as life skills workshops that focus on stress management, interpersonal relationships, conflict resolution, and other important topics related to recovery.3

The potential helpfulness of the Salute To Recovery Program is significant. This program has shown great promise so far in helping struggling veterans overcome their struggles with addiction while also providing them with valuable skills they can use throughout their lives in order to maintain sobriety and overall well-being.3

Who Is Eligible For Salute To Recovery Programs?

Salute To Recovery programs are designed to provide support and assistance to those who have selflessly served their country and communities. Eligible participants include veterans and military personnel who have been honorably discharged, first responders, firefighters, police officers, and dispatchers.3

Veterans and military personnel who have served honorably are eligible for a variety of benefits under the Salute To Recovery program. For veterans with disabilities related to service-connected conditions such as PTSD or SUD, these programs can help them receive the treatment they need in order to lead stable lives.3

First responders such as firefighters and police officers are also eligible for Salute To Recovery programs. These individuals may be at risk of developing PTSD due to the dangerous situations they regularly face on the job. The Salute To Recovery program provides them with access to mental health services that can help them cope with these difficult periods in their lives.3,4

Dispatchers may also qualify for Salute To Recovery programs because of their unique roles in providing emergency response services in times of crisis. Dispatchers must often deal with intense stress while working long hours without rest periods. This chronic stress can lead to a variety of physical and emotional symptoms over time. The Salute To Recovery program offers treatment for them as well.3,4

By providing access to psychological counseling, detoxification and other forms of mental health and SUD treatment, these programs ensure that those who serve our country and communities have all the resources needed for recovery.3

What Do We Learn During The Salute To Recovery Program?

Struggling individuals who participate in the Salute to Recovery program receive individualized treatment which is designed to help them get sober and build a strong foundation for lasting sobriety. The program offers education on a variety of topics, such as coping with stress in healthy ways, resolving conflict and preventing a relapse.3

All activities and lectures focus on equipping veterans with the tools they need to maintain their recovery journey post-rehab. There are multiple types of activities provided in order to give participants a comprehensive understanding of their addiction, how to manage it over time, and how to become resilient when faced with triggers or other obstacles.3

During the Salute to Recovery program, veterans are supposed to learn effective strategies for creating positive habits that will replace those connected with substance abuse, such as engaging in physical activity or creating meaningful connections with friends and family members. In addition, participants may gain an understanding of how to recognize warning signs of relapse before it happens and develop coping mechanisms for when things get tough. The main points of focus during treatment may include:3

  • The Effect of Military Culture: Military culture has often been a deterrent to veterans seeking help with substance abuse disorders. Expressed through both expectations of “toughness” and fear of retribution, the pervasive attitude is that reaching out for help is a sign of weakness, and soldiers should just “push through it”. This mentality can be immensely damaging. Not only does it encourage veterans to suffer in silence rather than seek treatment, but it also contributes to the stigma surrounding mental health issues by making them appear shameful. With no positive reinforcement or understanding provided by their peers, this issue may continue to plague military personnel unless the message changes, emphasizing the importance of openly addressing these challenges during treatment at the Salute to Recovery program.5
  • Improving Relationships: Veterans struggling with SUDs and/or PTSD can benefit greatly from learning how to improve and maintain their relationships during treatment. Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries, learning how to communicate in healthier ways and resolving conflict are important steps in creating fulfilling relationships that can reduce the risk of relapse and provide emotional security. This can also help the struggling individual’s loved ones who may have been negatively affected by the individual’s SUD.6
  • Dealing With Hypervigilance: A number of veterans struggling with SUD may have issues with hypervigilance and anxiety. A successful treatment plan should include strategies to manage hypervigilance and properly address underlying issues that contribute to the disorder. CBT is also highly recommended for managing hypervigilance as it helps to bring about understanding and healthy control over thoughts and behaviors. When combined with a comprehensive SUD treatment program, these methods may give veterans the opportunity to take more control of their hypervigilance symptoms.7
  • Rediscovering Personal Values: Being in the thick of substance abuse can often lead to a feeling of confusion and loss in terms of who the struggling individual is. Luckily, therapy focused on veteran-specific issues can offer support and coping skills that allow them to address these issues. In group therapy sessions, veterans can be surrounded by those who understand military culture, allowing them to share their experiences and gain insight from fellow veterans. Engaging in recreational activities such as mindfulness or sports teams can also offer emotional support when rediscovering identity after a SUD diagnosis without relying solely on conversations about addiction.8
  • Coping With Stress: A lot of veterans who struggle with SUDs may have issues with managing stress in healthy ways. In order to get and stay sober, treatment-seeking individuals need to learn how to cope with stress differently. The treatment process itself may also be stressful for some struggling individuals, so it may be a good opportunity to practice handling the stress of treatment and the general stress they may be experiencing. The techniques and methods learned in treatment can be enormously beneficial in curbing some of the physical and mental burdens of stress.9
  • Managing PTSD Symptoms: Veterans who are undergoing SUD treatment through Salute to Recovery may be facing unique challenges when coping with PTSD symptoms. One possible approach is for veterans to develop a toolbox of coping strategies that can be used both during and in between therapy sessions. These could include activities like deep breathing, talking to supportive friends or family members, journaling thoughts and emotions, maintaining physical fitness or exercise routines, or other healthy ways of staying stable. Additionally, struggling veterans can work with their therapist to track progress and modify any strategies as needed.9

What Are the Treatments Offered?

Salute to Recovery is specifically designed to meet the needs and requirements of veterans seeking treatment for SUDs. As such, it consists of a number of different approaches and treatment modalities that may be useful for struggling veterans. The most common treatment options typically included in treatment may include:3

Medical Detoxification

Medical detox is typically the first phase of the Salute to Recovery program and it may be necessary regardless of whether the struggling individual needs detox from stronger substances like opioids or milder substances like marijuana. Upon admittance, the treatment-seeking individual’s vital signs are monitored and drugs are administered to help reduce physical discomfort and control symptoms, as well as promote safety while they begin to withdraw from the substance.10

Trained physicians, nurses, and other mental health professionals supervise this process around the clock to ensure any medical issues that arise are quickly addressed. During detox, struggling individuals may experience various mental health symptoms such as intense cravings or anxiety, which can be managed with medications prescribed by medical staff. Once detox is complete, the treatment-seeking veteran can transition into the treatment phase of their program with the goal of maintaining long-term recovery.10

Trauma-Informed Care

Trauma-informed care works to ensure that veterans are met with respect and understanding while recognizing how their trauma may affect their current situation. Salute to Recovery is specialized in providing trauma-informed care. This often includes evidence-based treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure therapy, implemented in a secure setting and delivered by counselors trained in trauma intervention methods.11

Furthermore, today’s best practices involve an interdisciplinary approach to treatment which may incorporate services such as physical therapy and spiritual counseling. Through these means, veterans can learn to cope with the aftermath of their personal traumas and develop more effective strategies for managing future difficult experiences.11

12-step Treatment Programs 

Salute to Recovery programs typically offer the possibility of participating in a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. 12-step programs in rehab provide veterans with an opportunity to form support groups among other vets for further guidance throughout their journey and to learn how to manage their addiction with the help of proven steps. In addition, 12-step programs offer relapse prevention techniques where veterans can practice tactics such as positive communication skills and avoiding high-risk environments so as to be better prepared upon release from rehab. Ultimately, these programs serve as a safe space for veterans to unpack their own recovery process without fear of judgment or ridicule.12

Relapse Prevention Skills 

Veterans struggling with SUDs who receive treatment through the Salute to Recovery program may receive a specialized relapse prevention curriculum in rehab tailored to the unique needs of veterans. For instance, this might include psychotherapy focused on understanding, addressing, and overcoming trauma, cognitive behavioral therapy to identify and mitigate triggers for relapse, group process work that enables veterans to share their experiences with others and gain support from peers, as well as a wide range of life skills development classes such as stress management.13

An important component of veterans’ relapse prevention learning is the development of greater self-awareness around emotional regulation and mindfulness-based practices that offer strategies for navigating intense emotions or negative feelings. As treatment progresses, the supportive environment offered by rehab staff can assist the struggling in beginning to understand how to manage new and healthy coping strategies in place of using drugs or alcohol.13

Managing Anger

Anger management during the Salute to Recovery program for treatment-seeking veterans typically begins with a comprehensive assessment of their unique needs and experiences. During this process, the counselor or therapist may utilize established tools, such as psychological tests, to gain insight into the veteran’s behavioral patterns and thought processes related to anger.14

From there, a treatment plan is developed that normally includes individual and/or group meetings and activities. In these meetings, the struggling veterans have the opportunity to explore and discuss triggers that fuel their emotions and anger as well as develop strategies to cope with difficult situations.14

Additionally, treatment-seeking veterans are likely to learn about personal development skills, such as healthy communication styles and problem-solving techniques. The goal of anger management in rehab is ultimately to equip veterans with the tools they need to manage their reactions more effectively in order to improve their personal relationships and overall quality of life. There are even gender-specific programs for men who struggle with anger management.14

Dealing With Loss and Grief

Learning how to deal with grief and loss for treatment-seeking veterans in Salute to Recovery rehab is a challenging but rewarding process. It begins with an initial assessment where mental health professionals can determine underlying mental health issues that are related to the struggling veteran’s experience of loss. Next, different therapeutic techniques can be used in individual and group sessions to help the veteran develop healthy coping skills.15

The struggling veteran has the chance to express their emotions openly and safely in this environment. With support throughout this process, many veterans may find significant relief and resilience in healing as they learn how to deal with their grief and loss.15

Counseling for Couples

Counseling for couples in rehab for treatment-seeking veterans is often multi-faceted, involving several elements. Couples involved in the Salute to Recovery program may work with a trained professional to identify recurring maladaptive behaviors and their greater underlying cause. Through the use of psychotherapy, couples can talk through incidents, listen to one another’s points of view, and practice communication techniques that enable them to come to a resolution. This type of counseling aims to build healthy coping skills within the couple so they can address issues collaboratively and create meaningful strategies for living healthier lives together.16

Family Therapy

Family therapy in the Salute to Recovery program for treatment-seeking veterans often involves the whole family. It typically begins with a discussion around the struggling veteran’s unique triggers and how their family structure can support the individual during difficult times. Goals are established to promote healthier communication, understanding and self-acceptance among all members of the struggling veteran’s family system.16

As part of this process, families may learn about problem-solving skills and strategies for giving effective support to each other. Ultimately, veterans in SUD treatment may benefit from having a strong support system that understands their needs, which family therapy strives to build over time.16

How Do You Find Rehab Facilities Near You That Offer The Salute To Recovery Program?

If you or your loved one need to find SUD treatment through the Salute to Recovery program, there are different ways to find facilities that offer it. One way to find an appropriate program is to use an online treatment center locator. SAMHSA offers a reliable locator that treatment-seeking individuals can use for this purpose. The search is anonymous and confidential.17

Another way is to directly contact American Addiction Centers (AAC), a reputable network of treatment centers. AAC’s facilities offer comprehensive treatment for veterans who suffer from SUDs. Medical professionals at AAC believe that in order to achieve the best possible outcome, the treatment-seeking individual should receive personalized care tailored to their unique situation. To this end, AAC offers both residential and outpatient programs as well as medication-assisted treatment, psychotherapy, and detoxification, all of which work together to create an effective plan for recovery.

For veterans dealing with SUDs, AAC also offers a variety of payment options including private insurance coverage, sliding scale fees for those without insurance, special funding for veterans through various programs and additional funds from state and federal grants. Additionally, some service members may be eligible for coverage under TriCare or Veterans Affairs benefits depending on eligibility criteria.

Treatment-seeking individuals can discuss their eligibility and options with AAC’s trained, well-informed admissions team. The navigators can easily verify their insurance coverage and research different insurance options they may be able to use for payment. All the treatment-seeking individual has to do is reach out to the accessible 24/7 helpline.

You or your loved one can ask the navigator any other questions you may have about your admission to treatment. Treatment-seeking individuals can also discuss which center may be appropriate for their needs, as there are various options available, from outpatient to comprehensive inpatient programs. With all the necessary information, treatment-seeking individuals may feel more comfortable and prepared for treatment.