Veteran Substance Abuse: Signs, Statistics & Risks

Military life is honorable and deserving of everyone’s utmost respect. Unfortunately, service members are especially vulnerable to a variety of substance use disorders. Many men and women in our Armed Forces to smoke, drink alcohol excessively, and abuse drugs. Additionally, many who need help with substance abuse avoid seeking help because of a perceived stigma associated with any mental health issues. Learn more about veteran substance abuse signs, statistics, and risks below.

If you or a loved one are a Veteran who needs a safe space to stay sober, our sober living environment at The Sanctuary Recovery Foundation may be right for you. Contact us and learn how we can help.

Key Statistics

Participating in armed combat or facing that possibility can create intense stress that follows service members when they separate from active duty. The result of this is a high rate of substance abuse that often accompanies PTSD. The following statistics highlight the problem and the need for professional care:

  • From 2002-2009 marijuana use increased more than 50% among veterans.
  • More than 10% of veterans seeking recovery are seeking help for heroin addiction, and 6% for cocaine abuse.
  • The number of veterans receiving opioid prescriptions in the VA hospital system rose from 17% to 24% between 2001-2009.
  • Veterans are 50% more likely to abuse alcohol than non-veterans.
  • Veterans who abuse alcohol are highly likely to engage in violent behavior, especially domestic violence.
  • The risk of suicide more than doubles for Veterans with a substance abuse disorder.

Signs of Substance Abuse

Veterans often show different signs for substance abuse than non-veterans. Examples of the signs of addiction for veterans include:

  • Difficulties at work
  • Strained personal relationships
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Not taking medications as prescribed
  • Increased levels of panic or anxiety
  • Preoccupation with how to find the drug or substance they abuse

Risks Substance Abuse

Veterans who abuse drugs and alcohol are at an increased risk for problems such as:

  • Homelessness
  • Unemployment
  • Suicide
  • Anger
  • Erratic behavior
  • Isolation from friends and family members
  • Financial issues
  • Criminal activity

Denial of Substance Abuse

The military requires strength, courage, and resolve from its members. Any sign of weakness is avoided and frowned upon by superiors and peers. Veterans are proud men and women who find admitting a substance abuse problem particularly difficult. They may resort to blaming others before acknowledging that the problem belongs to them, and it is up to them to solve it. The very traits that made them successful on the battlefield can now pose a significant barrier to their recovery.

Recovery for Veteran Substance Abuse

Fortunately, many veterans conquer their substance abuse by seeking a helpful environment to recover and live a sober life, such as that found at the Sanctuary Recovery Foundation. With the support of others, you will be able to:

  • Reflect on your motivation to change
  • Take a personal inventory of your character strengths and weaknesses
  • Improve your ability to identify triggers that can cause a relapse
  • Learn how to enjoy healthy relationships with others
  • Receive encouragement to attend helpful 12 Step meetings
  • Gain an understanding of how substance abuse relates to other issues such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, and anger
  • Discover the joy of helping others with whom you share a similar journey

Consider the Sanctuary Recovery Foundation

If you are a Veteran or the loved one of a Veteran, we hope you will consider The Sanctuary Recovery Foundation for help pursuing a sober life. Our sober living environment honors and respects Veterans and offers them a supportive and understanding community. To learn more, contact us to discover how we can provide the help you need.