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Serving Those Who Served: Addressing Substance Abuse in Veterans

By May 23, 2023 - 12:53am

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), substance use disorder is slightly more prevalent in veterans than in their civilian counterparts. The study shows that more than one in ten veterans has been diagnosed with substance use disorder.

The complexities of this issue demand a comprehensive and compassionate approach that considers the needs and experiences of our veterans. 

Challenges Faced by Veterans

Below are some challenges veterans with substance abuse face;

PTSD and Other Mental Health Issues

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD can make it challenging to cope with daily life and may increase the risk of substance abuse as a coping mechanism.

Difficulty Transitioning to Civilian Life

Difficulty transitioning to civilian life is another challenge veterans face. After serving in the military, it’s normal to struggle to adjust to civilian life, leading to anxiety, depression, and hopelessness, which may increase the risk of substance abuse.

Accessibility to Care

Many veterans face barriers to accessing substance abuse treatment, including long wait times, a lack of specialized services, and limited insurance coverage. These barriers can make it difficult for veterans to get the help they need when they need it.

Click here to learn more about resources for veterans struggling with substance abuse.

Exposure to Prescription Opioids

Med experts often prescribe opioids to veterans for them to manage pain resulting from injuries sustained during their service. This can lead to addiction and make it more challenging to recover from substance abuse.

Treatment Options for Veterans With Substance Abuse

Let’s look at treatment options for veterans with substance abuse below.

Veteran Affairs Programs and Resources

Veteran Affairs(VA) programs offer various services, including outpatient and inpatient care, detoxification, and counseling. Additionally, they provide support groups, case management, and medication-assisted treatment to help veterans overcome their addictions and maintain their recovery.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is a standard treatment option for veterans with substance abuse. It aims to modify problematic behaviors and address underlying mental health issues. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widespread behavioral therapy that helps veterans identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors related to substance use.

Preventative Measures for Addressing Substance Abuse in Veterans

Below are preventive measures for addressing substance abuse in veterans;

Education on the Risks of Substance Abuse and Addiction

Education on substance abuse and addiction risks is an important preventive measure to help veterans make informed decisions about their substance use. Education can include information about substance abuse's physical and mental health consequences and strategies for reducing or avoiding substance use. 

Screening and Assessment 

Screening and assessment of substance abuse disorders in veterans can be done regularly to detect early signs of substance abuse. This can be done by healthcare professionals, therapists, or counselors.

Support Groups 

Veterans can benefit from joining support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. These groups provide a safe and supportive environment where veterans can share their experiences and receive help from others who have been through similar struggles.

Addressing Co-Occurring Disorders

Many veterans with substance abuse disorders also have other mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Treating these co-occurring disorders can help prevent substance abuse from worsening.


Addressing substance abuse in veterans is essential, as drug abuse can significantly impact their lives and make it difficult for them to adjust to civilian life. Specialists can help veterans who served our country pull through the tough times by providing them with the support they need.

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