Substance Use Disorder – How military spouses can help

You’re so excited to see your spouse. It’s been months since the last time you got to see each other in person. You both text and call fairly often, but it’s not the same. Now you finally have some time together. The reunion is great, you end up going out to dinner together, and it feels nice to finally be around them again.

You didn’t start to notice anything until a day or two after you were finally reunited. Nothing had ever really seemed off over the phone. They said they were doing fine, never mentioned anything off, and yet you can tell something is going on. It turns out that your spouse had started engaging in substance use. You’re not sure why they did it, but you’re worried for them and you just want to help.

Being a part of a family that has a member in active duty can put a strain on different aspects of your life. Whether you’re the one in active duty yourself, or you’re the one who stays home while they’re away, it’s situations like these that can sometimes breed substance use. While there is never a situation where developing a substance use disorder is guaranteed, the link between stress, mental health, and substance use is real, and high-stress jobs like the military can make a big impact on a family.

Here in Arizona, there are nearly 100,000 people who make up the active military, National Guard, and their immediate family. Our team here at Pinnacle Peak knows how important these members of our community are. We believe in making sure everyone has access to the recovery care they need. We also know how unique some people’s situations are, that’s why we offer programs specifically to help those in military families who are managing a substance use disorder. 

Let’s take a closer look at how common substance use is in the military, how to spot it, and the steps you can take to help yourself or your loved one. 

How Common Is Substance Use Amongst the Military?

In 2021 more than 17,000 soldiers were diagnosed with a substance use disorder. On average, 2.6% of females in the active military, and 3.4% of males are reported as having an SUD.

Substance and alcohol use can often be utilized as a bonding or de-stressing method. Other times people turn to substance use as a way to manage loneliness or mental illness. While there can still be a prevalence of shame for having a “weakness” in the military, they’re also actively taking steps towards assisting those with an SUD instead of immediately casting them out. There are still reports of random drug tests, and each branch of the military has its own substance rehab program. 

Are Military Families at Risk for Addiction?

Here in Arizona over 400,000 people aged 12+ reported having a substance use disorder. Often changes in life, mental illness, and loneliness can play big parts in someone developing an SUD. Those who are married to someone in the active military are just as, if not more susceptible to experiencing loneliness and high stress. This can lead to an increased chance of developing an SUD. 

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5 Common Signs of a Substance Use Disorder

Your spouse has been acting “off” recently, and you’re not sure why. You don’t want to jump to conclusions, but you also have a hunch that it might be related to substance use. How can you be sure without potentially making them defensive?

When it comes to substance use, there are usually signs that slowly pop up that can help a spouse identify it. While not every person is going to experience the exact same side effects, here are some of the more common signs that your spouse might be managing a substance use disorder:

  • They’re missing out on activities they used to enjoy.
  • You’ve noticed changes in eating or sleeping patterns.
  • They’ve started acting more secretive about certain aspects of their life.
  • They’ve started behaving more restlessly, seeming agitated or paranoid in situations that don’t call for it.
  • They’ve been neglecting important things like personal hygiene, housework, things for their job, etc.

These can all be signs pointing toward a substance use disorder. There are often other, physical side effects that can occur with long-term use, as well. These can vary from substance to substance. It’s important to note that some of these side effects can also be indicative of someone who needs help with their mental health. Mental health conditions often go hand in hand with substance use. Now, let’s talk about what you can do if you notice these signs.

Top 3 Tips for Helping a Spouse with an SUD

Discovering that your spouse might be dealing with a substance use disorder can be scary. You may have a lot of questions, like what led to this or if you did something that caused this. It’s important to note that substance use is usually more complex than that. It isn’t just one singular event or circumstance that brings people to substance use. Often, there are many factors that play a role in the start of addiction.

What do you do when you’ve discovered this? How can you best help without potentially enabling them or pushing them away?

Here are some of our best tips for approaching and supporting your spouse who’s managing an SUD:

  • Be non-judgemental - Substance use is already a very stigmatized thing. One of the reasons they might be isolating or acting defensive is because they already think you’re going to judge them or be upset with them. SUDs are more complex than most people think, and are not an indicator of someone being a “failure.” Listen to them and be understanding. 
  • Remind them you care - One of the key components behind SUDs is often loneliness. Even when surrounded by loved ones, sometimes things like mental illness or other factors can make a person feel isolated. Remind them you care and want what’s best for them. 
  • Offer help where they want it - Help can come in a variety of ways. This can mean helping them research where to go for recovery, driving them to their sessions, or even helping them with homework given to them by their therapist. It can mean attending events with them, going to family counseling sessions, and even just being willing to celebrate small milestones and victories. It can also mean assisting them with housework or chores like grocery shopping while they’re on their healing journey.
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Helpful Resources for Addressing Substance Use

We all deserve support, especially when we’re going through recovery. There are many resources available for those both in the military and those recovering from or managing a substance use disorder.

MSGA or Military Support Groups of America has a wide variety of partner programs that help both those in active service and their families. This can be a great resource for anyone in the household, whether they need support while their spouse is away, or they’re looking for people who understand the situation they’re in.

Harm reduction can play a big role in recovery, too. This includes accessing needle exchange resources as well as learning about naloxone and where to find it in Arizona. Every step can help, and the best path to recovery is accepting support.

Rehab Options for Military Families in Arizona

Oftentimes, the first steps towards recovery can seem the most daunting. It’s overwhelming to think about where to look and what others might think, much less stress about who takes your insurance. Pinnacle Peak Recovery can help make this choice easier for you. We’re proud to accept Tricare insurance and understand that active military members might have different concerns than the average patient. That’s why we have programs designed to help unique individuals and situations such as these, to make sure your needs are properly met along the way.

We also have a team of master-level physicians who are trained and ready to assist you along your road of recovery. Our goal is to help you build a strong foundation and offer support – even after you leave our doors. Through our Proven Process, we track outcomes to ensure you meet your recovery goals. 

We know how different each of our patients is, and we want to make sure we address individual needs instead of trying to fit every patient into the same exact program. That’s why we offer several, evidence-based treatment options to help you find something that works for you. We’ll work alongside you to make sure you’re getting the most out of your recovery.

If you’re looking to get started with recovery, our team here at Pinnacle Peak is ready to help. We accept Tricare insurance and can get you going on the path to recovery whenever you’re ready. Give us a call when you’re ready at (866) 377-4761.

Learn How Military Spouses Can Make A Difference In The Battle Against Substance Use Disorder

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Is drug use a dishonorable discharge?

In some cases, it can be. It depends on the specifics of how it was found out, the extent of the drug use, combined with other things such as your record in the military and what branch you’re in. Most branches offer substance rehab options.

What happens if you get kicked out of the military for drugs?

If you’re discovered to be actively taking illicit drugs while enlisted and it is determined that you will be kicked out, this is known as a dishonorable discharge. 

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