By Greg Davis
September is National Recovery Month, an observance that aims to promote substance use treatment as a path to a healthy and rewarding life for those with drug or alcohol addictions. While many veterans face the immense obstacle of overcoming addictions to alcohol, tobacco, street drugs, and prescription medicines, these addictions are considered medical conditions that are treatable and of which full recovery is possible.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers support for substance use addictions, tailored specifically to the population it serves, including evidence-based medication treatment, counseling, and treatment for underlying behavioral health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress, that can exacerbate substance abuse. The VA also offers screenings for people who think they may have a substance use addiction as well as recommendations for families and friends who believe a loved one may need help.
If you or someone you know needs help recovering from an addiction, here are a couple of VA resources you can refer to:
- Veteran Crisis Line – If a veteran is in crisis or a friend or family member is concerned about them, the VA offers confidential help 24/7 at the Veteran Crisis Line, which can be reached by dialing “988” or texting 838255. The Veteran Crisis Line is private, free, and often staffed by veterans themselves.
- Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Programs – For non-crisis situations, the VA offers SUD Programs in all 50 states along with the Philippines and U.S. territories. Locate the SUD Programs nearest to you via the VA’s SUD page. You can also contact your local VA medical center and ask for the mental health clinic.
- VA Community Resource and Referral Center – Veterans who do not have VA health care benefits can contact their local VA Community Resource and Referral Center for support. The staff at those centers can refer potential non-VA resources available to veterans in the community. Note that veterans who served in a combat zone but do not have VA health care can still receive free private counseling, an alcohol and drug assessment, and other support at one of 300 community Veteran Centers. You can locate the nearest Veteran Center to you via the VA’s website.
Beyond the resources listed above, another way to help someone struggling with substance use is to be supportive and reduce the shame associated with substance use addictions. Stigma, or the fear of stigma, may cause someone to avoid sharing their health condition or avoid seeking the behavioral health services they need. Addiction is a medical condition, not a moral failing or a character flaw. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “one in seven Americans reports experiencing a substance use disorder,” a stunning statistic that underscores that addiction can happen to anyone.
In honor of National Recovery Month this September, you can help spread the message that there are safe and effective options to recover from substance use addictions. According to the latest U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 75% of those addicted to alcohol or drugs recover—their condition improves and substance use no longer dominates their life. Recovery can be challenging, and it may not be a straight path, but millions of people are living proof that it is possible.