What Veterans Should Look for in an Alcohol Rehab Center

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising public awareness about the dangers of heavy drinking and encouraging communities to focus on alcoholism treatment and prevention. For veterans, who may face unique challenges related to alcohol use, this month serves as a crucial reminder of the importance of seeking support and understanding what to look for in alcohol rehab centers that can address their specific needs.

Why Are Veterans More Susceptible to Alcohol Abuse?

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), veterans face unique challenges that can increase their susceptibility to alcohol use. The stress of military life, exposure to combat and the difficulty of transitioning back into civilian life can all contribute to seeking solace in alcohol. For many veterans, alcohol use becomes a coping mechanism for managing stress, anxiety and the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Additionally, military culture, which sometimes normalizes heavy drinking and stigmatizes asking for help, can further encourage alcohol use. 

Understanding these factors is crucial in addressing excessive drinking among veterans and offering them the targeted support they need to overcome alcohol dependency and lead healthier lives. At NorthStar Transitions, we recognize these unique challenges and provide specialized support to active-duty personnel and veterans struggling with alcohol use.

Dangers of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse is a pervasive issue that affects individuals from all walks of life, including our veterans. While moderate alcohol use is a part of many cultures and social settings, excessive drinking poses severe risks to physical health, mental well-being and overall quality of life. Understanding the dangers associated with alcohol abuse is the first step toward making informed decisions about drinking and seeking help when necessary.

Harmful to the Brain & Body

Alcohol impacts almost every major organ system in the body, but it is particularly damaging to the brain and central nervous system. Chronic heavy drinking can lead to cognitive impairments, poor decision making and an increased risk of developing neurological disorders such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a dementia-like condition characterized by confusion, loss of muscle coordination, vision problems and severe memory loss. 

Physically, alcohol is the leading cause of liver diseases, including fatty liver, hepatitis and cirrhosis — conditions that can be life-threatening without proper intervention. The cardiovascular system is also strained by alcohol use. Heavy drinking has been linked to high blood pressure, arrhythmia and an increased chance of a heart attack or stroke.

Increases Risk of Other Substance Use Disorders

There is a strong link between drinking and drug use. According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, binge drinkers are nearly twice as likely to misuse prescription opioids. What’s more, one in five opioid-related deaths involve alcohol. 

Alcohol impairs your judgment and lowers inhibitions, making it easier to engage in risky behaviors like drug use. While binge drinkers are at a higher risk of prescription opioid misuse, they’re also more likely to use illicit drugs such as MDMA, cocaine and marijuana. In some cases, these combinations may be fatal, as alcohol can enhance the effects of certain substances and slow breathing or heart rate to dangerous levels. In turn, cocaine and stimulants mask the depressive effects of alcohol, increasing the likelihood of alcohol poisoning. 

Withdrawal & Dependence

Over time, heavy alcohol use can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms that emerge when you try to quit or cut back. The more you drink, the more you’re likely to experience alcohol withdrawal. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal occur because the body has begun to compensate for its depressive effects on the central nervous system, leaving the brain in a hyperactive state when drinking is suddenly reduced or stopped. 

Alcohol withdrawal is not only uncomfortable — it’s also dangerous. Symptoms can be relatively mild, causing things like headaches, anxiety, insomnia and shakiness, but they can also be severe. It’s not unusual for heavy drinkers to experience hallucinations, confusion, seizures and alarmingly high blood pressure during the withdrawal process. Without proper medical supervision and support, these symptoms are potentially life-threatening. 

How to Tell if You Have a Drinking Problem

Recognizing when alcohol use becomes a problem is crucial for making changes. Here are some key indicators that might suggest your drinking has gotten out of control:

  • Increased tolerance: Needing to drink more and more alcohol to feel its effects.
  • Drinking in solitude: Frequently consuming alcohol alone and using it to cope with or avoid difficult emotions.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut back: Trying and failing to reduce alcohol consumption.
  • Anxiety at the thought of not drinking: Feeling anxious or uncomfortable at the idea of not having alcohol.
  • Blackouts or memory loss: Not remembering events after drinking.
  • Neglecting responsibilities: Failing to manage crucial duties and responsibilities at work, home or school due to excessive drinking.
  • Negative consequences: Continuing to drink even when it's causing physical, mental, emotional or relationship problems.
  • Legal issues: Encountering legal issues such as arrests for disorderly conduct or driving under the influence (DUI). 

If you notice these signs in yourself or a loved one, don’t hesitate to seek help. Alcohol Awareness Month provides a good opportunity to examine your drinking habits and how they affect your daily life. It's especially important for veterans who face unique challenges and stressors to recognize when alcohol use is becoming harmful. Resources are available to help manage alcohol dependency, offering a pathway to a healthier and more fulfilling life. 

What to Veterans Should Be Looking for in Alcohol Rehab Centers

When veterans seek support for alcohol use, finding a treatment center that understands their unique experiences is crucial. Here’s what veterans should look for in alcohol rehab centers.

Specialized Support for Veterans

Finding specialized treatment programs for veterans is vital to ensuring that the strategies and techniques used resonate with those who have served. A rehab center that acknowledges and understands the intricacies of military life, including the impact of PTSD, trauma, and the often difficult transition back to civilian life, is essential for meaningful recovery. Such programs should not only focus on the physical aspects of alcohol dependency but also explore the psychological and emotional wounds that often underlie substance use.

At NorthStar Transitions, we pride ourselves on offering a specialized program in Boulder, Colorado, designed for veterans. Our approach is holistic, recognizing that the path to recovery for veterans is interwoven with their unique experiences and the challenges they face upon returning home. By integrating therapies that address PTSD, trauma and reintegration issues directly into our alcohol rehab program, we ensure that our veterans receive care that is both comprehensive and tailored to their needs and circumstances.

Comprehensive Treatment Plans

The most effective treatment combines various evidence-based techniques to promote lasting recovery, including proven psychotherapies, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), dual diagnosis care and relapse prevention. Additionally, teaching coping strategies for managing stress and trauma is crucial, as these are often significant triggers for alcohol use. 

A rehab center that adopts a holistic approach and goes beyond treating just the symptoms of addiction also ensures that veterans receive comprehensive treatment that addresses all aspects of their well-being. At NorthStar Transitions, we are committed to providing this level of care, recognizing the importance of a well-rounded treatment plan in supporting recovery from alcohol dependency and promoting overall health and resilience in our veterans.

Qualified & Compassionate Staff

A qualified and compassionate staff is crucial in any rehabilitation setting but becomes even more important in programs catering to veterans. The unique challenges faced by those who have served require a deep understanding of military culture and the veteran experience to successfully navigate the issues they may encounter during and after the recovery process. 

Therapists, psychologists and other medical professionals working with veterans should be trained in trauma-informed care, recognizing the prevalence of traumatic experiences among veterans and how these experiences influence their path to recovery. Staff should also be equipped to handle the complexities of veteran-related issues, including PTSD, depression, anxiety and the stress of transitioning back into civilian life after completing active duty. A compassionate approach grounded in respect and empathy for each veteran's service can create a supportive and healing environment that can break the cycle of addiction.

Get Help Today

If you're a veteran struggling with alcohol use, remember - you're not alone, and support is available. Alcohol Awareness Month is the perfect time to reach out and take the first step toward recovery. NorthStar Transitions offers specialized programs tailored to the unique experiences and needs of veterans. Our dedicated team is committed to providing the comprehensive care and support you need to overcome alcohol dependency and navigate the path to a healthier, fulfilling life. Contact us today by calling 866-407-2240 or completing our online contact form to learn more about how we can support you on your journey to recovery.

Search Blog Posts
Back to blog
Call 866-407-2240
Verify Insurance