Substance use disorders can progress to a point where a person’s life is significantly unmanageable and can even result in life-threatening complications. People who are experiencing an increase in alcohol or drug use may begin to notice withdrawal symptoms when the substance is reduced or stopped. Certain substances have the potential to induce dangerous withdrawal symptoms such as psychosis and cardiac abnormalities that need immediate emergency interventions.1 For those who find themselves in crisis, there are treatment options available for emergency detoxification and same-day admissions in many rehab centers.
During a health crisis, veterans who are seeking emergency detox and same-day admission to an addiction rehab need help right away. Understanding what addiction services are available to meet those needs will help you and your family get the right care. If your primary health coverage is through the VA, it’s important to know what services the VA healthcare system offers and what special VA protocols you must follow to access care from a local provider.
Table of Contents
- Can I Go to Rehab the Same Day That I Call?
- What to Expect
- How Long Does it Take to Detox?
- How Does the VA Handle Same Day and Emergency Detox?
- When is it Time?
- Overdose and Life-Threatening Medical Emergencies
Can I Go to Rehab the Same Day That I Call?
In many cases, you can go to rehab the same day that you call for help. If you are in crisis and need withdrawal management, emergency departments are equipped to initiate care along with medication-assisted treatment, when indicated.6 The emergency staff can begin a short-term medication regimen for withdrawal, set you up with a referral to an addiction treatment provider, and provide education on the risks of drug and alcohol use and overdose, and explain what harm reduction methods are available to you.6 The level of care you qualify for depends on the severity of your illness and your situation.
Is it More Expensive?
There are typically no additional costs to enter into treatment the same day as long as you follow your insurance coverage plan. To make sure you’re informed of the correct cost, check with the preferred rehab center and ask if they are in your health plan network. If the provider is in-network, check what level of care is covered (e.g., detoxification, inpatient, or outpatient). If the provider is not in-network, check what your financial responsibility would be before admission. The out-of-network providers are generally more expensive whether you are admitted the same day or not.
What to Expect
Entering into a rehab program takes courage, and knowing what to expect when you arrive may help ease your mind. The VA offers veterans mental health treatment, including substance use disorders, in a variety of health settings.2 Depending on your situation you may be referred to an inpatient, outpatient, residential, or primary care provider to begin your treatment.2
If you require emergency detox, you will likely be admitted to inpatient care, short-term, or a residential rehabilitation treatment program (RRTP) that can provide a wide range of medical and mental health support services.2 Mental Health RRTP programs operate 24/7 in a therapeutic setting for veterans and offer treatment focused on mental health, substance use disorder, and co-occurring medical concerns. 2
Once you are admitted to treatment, the medical staff will monitor and treat you for withdrawal symptoms. Medications can be administered on a routine dosing schedule or symptom-triggered protocol. VA programs offer medications like buprenorphine and methadone to treat opioid use disorder. These medications can be prescribed as a therapy to replace illicit opioids or addictive prescription pain medication abuse. 2 If you are seeking treatment from a community (non-VA) provider, safe withdrawal management and medication therapy are a standard of care, although regimen may vary.
How Long Does it Take to Detox?
Medical providers will initiate your detoxification process by evaluating your condition, implementing safety measures to stabilize your condition and foster your readiness to begin a treatment program.3 The time it takes to detox from substances varies from a few days to a week or more. The length of detox primarily depends on the type of substance or substances you’re abusing, how long you’ve been abusing them, and pre-existing medical factors (ex: prior detox sessions).3
How Does the VA Handle Same Day and Emergency Detox?
Depending on where you live, some VA Healthcare Centers do not have 24/7 mental health emergency care or same-day admission services.2 Large VA centers may have all medical, mental health, and addiction services available. Smaller VA Centers are usually not equipped to handle same-day admissions or emergency detox and will need to refer patients to other larger VA locations. Fortunately, the VA can refer veterans to community-based services where specialists can meet the veteran’s needs immediately.
Care close to home is important to many veterans. The VA’s Community Care partners program provides veterans access to local or rapid care at private facilities that work with the VA. Historically, veterans would have to wait up to 14 days to get into a treatment program.2 With new laws in place, veterans can now seek services from local community providers through mobile clinics, telehealth solutions, and specialty inpatient addiction treatment, like American Addiction Centers (AAC), that cut down the wait time.2
Will Veteran Benefits Cover Emergency Rehab?
Veterans’ benefits will vary based on the service plan and medical necessity. If you need emergency addiction rehab, contact your VA health care provider first for guidance. If your situation is deemed life-threatening, go to your nearest emergency department. Once you arrive, notify emergency staff that you are a veteran and they will need to contact the VA to inform them of your emergency care.
As long as you follow the VA guidelines, your approved level of care will be covered.
When is it Time?
It may be difficult for you to admit there is a problem with alcohol or drugs. Know the warning signs so that you know when it is time to seek help and get treated for a substance use disorder.
The following signs often occur when use is spiraling out of control. Answering “yes” to 2 or more of these behaviors indicates inpatient rehab may be needed: 1
- Taking the substance in larger amounts over a longer period.
- Trying to cut down or stop use without success.
- Craving the substance, or has a strong desire or urge to use.
- Spending a great deal of time seeking out or using drugs or alcohol.
- Using interferes with life responsibilities at work, school, or home.
- Isolating self from others to use drugs or alcohol.
- Continuing to use in situations that can be physically hazardous.
- Continuing to use despite being aware that physical or psychological problems are likely caused or worsened.
- Needing to use more to get the same effect.
- Suffering withdrawal when heavy or prolonged use is stopped or reduced (e.g., tremors, increased heart rate, agitation).
Allowing a substance use disorder to go untreated could increase the chance of the disorder leading to life-threatening complications. For those in crisis, you can benefit from a same-day admission or emergency admission to a treatment program.
Can I Detox at Home?
Talk to your primary care provider and discuss what type of detox will work best for you. Everyone’s situation is different and some people may be able to work out a safe at-home detox plan with medical oversight. For most people, 24/7 medical and nursing care with professional clinical therapies and supervision is preferable.
Overdose and Life-Threatening Medical Emergencies
Life-threatening emergencies, such as an acute (in progress) overdose, requires acute emergency care. If you are not able to call, then someone standing by should call 911; it’s the right thing to do. Emergency department care offers an opportunity to access life-saving treatment.6 When a person experiences a non-fatal overdose and doesn’t go to the emergency room, they should reach out for help. Calling a crisis hotline or a local addiction rehab center can offer you resources and support so that you get the help you need when you are ready.
If you are in crisis, you can call the veteran crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255. It’s private, free, and open 24/7. If you are looking for VA care you can find a VA Center near you.
If you are looking for a veteran’s community-based provider, the American Addiction Centers are a leading treatment provider that has many centers located throughout the country.
Call AAC today at 1-888-902-VETS (8387). Our admissions navigators are ready to help you 24/7. We can check your insurance and find you a provider closest to you, even if it’s not with AAC.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria from the DSM-5. Alcohol-related disorders
- S. Department of Veterans Administration. (n/a). Guide to VA mental health services for Veterans.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (October 2015). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. TIP 45.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (March 2021). Interrupted memories: Alcohol-induced blackouts.
- Mirijello, A., D’Angelo, C., Ferrulli, A., Vassallo, G., Antonelli, M., Caputo, F., Leggio, L., Gasbarrini, A., & Addolorato, G. (2015). Identification and management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Use of medication-assisted treatment in emergency departments.