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Veterans and Substance Use Disorders: Breaking the Stigma

May 25, 2022

Veterans face a unique set of challenges when returning home from service. Unfortunately, one often overlooked challenge is the link between veterans and substance use disorders. Many veterans struggle with addiction after returning home, but due to the stigma attached to addiction and mental health concerns, they are reluctant to seek help. In this blog post, we will discuss the link between veterans and substance use disorders and ways to break the stigma and get help for those who need it.

Veterans and Substance Use Disorders

Veterans are slightly more likely than the general population to suffer from substance use disorders (SUDs), with one in ten being diagnosed with a SUD. The threat of dishonorable discharge and even criminal prosecution for a positive drug test can discourage illicit drug use while in active duty. However, some protective influences disappear upon leaving the military, and substance use disorders and other mental health issues become more of a concern.

If you or a loved one need help, call our admissions team today at 561-841-1033.

A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that veterans are twice as likely to die from overdose than the general population.

This may be due to the fact that many veterans experience traumatic events during their service, which can lead to PTSD or other mental health concerns. In addition, soldiers that were injured or experienced trauma during their service are at a higher risk for increased drinking and drug use after returning home.

Veteran populations are greatly affected by a number of other critical conditions, such as pain, suicide risk, trauma, and homelessness.

In active-duty military personnel and veterans, suicide rates are higher than in the general population. Often, substance abuse precedes suicidal behavior in the military. Since 2003, alcohol and drugs have played a role in about 30% of Army suicides and over 45% of suicide attempts. A further 20% of high-risk behavior deaths were attributed to alcohol or drug overdoses. Because of this, treatment for veterans needs to focus on their concurrent mental health issues.

Treatment for Veterans

Treatment for veterans often included cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) as it is very effective in treating individuals with co-occurring PTSD and substance use disorders. By using coping strategies including relaxation techniques, self-talk, meditation, mindfulness exercises, and developing an aftercare plan with learning experiences that will reinforce healthy behaviors, veterans have a higher chance of recovering from both PTSD and substance use disorders.

Veterans who suffer from addiction or mental health issues often feel ashamed and embarrassed, leading them to avoid seeking help. This can be dangerous, as addiction can lead to serious health problems, and mental health disorders can impair daily functioning. However, there are ways to break the stigma and get help for veterans who need it.

One way to break the stigma is to talk about it.

Many veterans feel like they are the only ones struggling, but this is not the case. There are many support groups and online communities where veterans can share their stories and find help.

Another way to get help is to reach out to your local VA hospital or a treatment center. The VA offers a variety of programs and services for veterans with addiction or mental health issues. Residential treatment centers are also available to provide counseling and support.

Breaking the stigma attached to addiction and mental health issues is an important step in helping veterans get the help they need. By talking about these issues and reaching out for support, we can ensure that all veterans can live a life free from the effects of addiction and mental illness.


Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting recovery.

For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1033.

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