FALLS CHURCH, Va. - As opioid overdose deaths continue to rise, the Department of Defense (DoD) continues to expand access to treatments for substance use disorder (SUD). This includes medication assisted treatment (MAT), and other mental health services.

Although the number of military members abusing substances is lower than the national average, substance use is also a problem for Tricare beneficiaries.

Tricare provides a wide range of effective treatments for substance use disorders. In 2016, the DoD expanded the availability of SUD and MAT services. This was to provide patient-centered, evidence-based prevention and treatment for substance use.

Dr. Krystyna Bienia, clinical psychologist and senior policy analyst at the Defense Health Agency, explained that the goal of expanding access is to help patients get the appropriate SUD treatment.

"We aim to decrease the devastating impact of substance use on military families, including the number of overdoses and deaths due to opiate abuse."

Bienia believes the key to beating addiction is understanding when you need help, and knowing how and where to seek it.

A sign that you may have an opioid addiction is if you:

Use more medication than you were prescribed.

Get more medication from others.

Go to multiple doctors to try to get medication.

When you realize that you or someone you know has a substance use problem, it’s essential to get help.

Find a Tricare -authorized provider who can help you. There are several options.

You can go to your primary care provider. They can talk with you about what services might be most appropriate.

There are certain physicians and nurse practitioners who can treat an opioid addiction in an office setting.

Your regional contractor can also help you find a local provider who can help. It’s better to address the problem early before it turns into an addiction and leads to more serious problems.

Tricare covers both inpatient and outpatient care to treat SUD.

Inpatient or residential SUD treatment

Partial hospitalization programs. These are full days of treatment, five days a week, but you go home every evening.

Intensive outpatient treatment. This is half a day treatment, several days per week.

Opioid treatment programs

Office-based outpatient treatment

Psychotherapy and counseling (individual, family, or group therapy)

"Research shows that treatment can help people successfully recover from an opioid addiction," said Bienia. "MAT can help prevent withdrawals and cravings. But it’s just one component of a successful treatment plan. A Tricare -authorized provider experienced in the treatment of substance use can help develop a treatment plan tailored to you."

In addition to Tricare covered services, other non-clinical services are offered throughout the military to help members. These include, but aren’t limited to, community activities through Morale, Welfare, and Recreation and 12-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous. You should also look into community support resources in your area.

"Because of the social nature of drug use, it’s extremely important to get connected with a community that supports sobriety," said Bienia.

If you’re struggling, know that help is available. Learn more about substance use disorder services that Tricare covers and how to get care. And download the Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services Fact Sheet. Tricare is ready to connect you with the right services for your needs.

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month. The Military Health System and others in the Department of Defense are highlighting the importance of mental health and sharing resources that are available to military communities all month long. Go to the Mental Health Awareness Month spotlight to learn more.

Connecticut Media Group