They fought for freedom, faced tough challenges, and made countless sacrifices. Yet, many of them are still fighting battles long after they’ve returned home.

Did you know more than one in ten veterans struggle with substance abuse? This rate is slightly higher than the general population. It’s one of the many veterans addiction statistics highlighting how pressing this problem is.

As many veterans carry the weight of their experiences, understanding such pressures is vital for providing the right support. In this blog, we’ll dig deeper into why veterans are particularly susceptible to substance use disorder and what can be done to address it.


Source: Oregon Trail Recovery

Mental and Physical Challenges That Can Trigger Addiction Among Veterans

Various life events can trigger addiction. And for veterans, the unique mental and physical challenges they face are huge factors. 

Traumatic Experiences

Exposure to combat and other traumatic events can affect veterans, leading to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health condition induced by a distressing event. As a way to cope and a form of escape, people with PTSD often turn to drugs and alcohol. This is why PTSD typically co-occurs with substance abuse. 

Studies show that over 20% of veterans with PTSD also have a substance use disorder. Each condition is difficult to overcome. So, you can only imagine how challenging it is to face both at the same time. It can create a cycle that’s hard to break, especially without proper support and treatment.

Mental Health Disorders

Aside from PTSD, other mental health disorders that are common among veterans are depression and anxiety. These can lead to self-medication with substances as individuals try to manage their symptoms on their own. 

Unfortunately, veterans often face barriers to accessing proper treatment, including stigma surrounding veterans’ mental health. Roughly 60% of military personnel who suffer from mental health issues do not seek assistance. This only exacerbates the risk of substance use as an unhelpful coping strategy.

Injury and Chronic Pain

Many veterans return from service with injuries. These injuries often require treatment with prescription medications, including opioids, which can be highly addictive. The risk of substance abuse increases as veterans continue to rely on these medications to manage their chronic pain.

addictionSource: Freepik

Other Factors That Contribute to Substance Abuse

While traumatic experiences, mental health issues, and physical injuries are known factors, many other things play a crucial role in the higher rates of addiction and substance abuse among veterans and active duty personnel alike.

Reintegration into Civilian Life

Many veterans have a hard time returning to civilian life. Veterans often struggle to reconnect with family and friends who may not understand their experiences or the changes they have undergone. 

This phase, if not overseen and managed correctly, can lead to social isolation. Consequently, this isolation can exacerbate a sense of loss of purpose. Ultimately, it pushes some veterans toward substance abuse as they seek to cope with such negative, overwhelming feelings.

Cultural and Institutional Factors

The military culture often emphasizes stoicism and self-reliance. While these values are essential, especially when serving in the military, they can discourage veterans from seeking help for emotional or mental health issues. 

This stigma, combined with a “tough it out” mentality, leads many to succumb to substances as a way to self-treat unaddressed psychological pain. To further compound the situation, there is often a perceived weakness associated with admitting to struggles, especially if it concerns drug abuse or alcoholism. This makes it more challenging for veterans to get the proper treatment they need.

alcohol rehab near me

Source: Oregon Trail Recovery

Access to Healthcare and Support

Beyond the said stigma, gaps in mental health services and substance abuse treatment are also prevalent issues within the veterans’ healthcare system. For example, many veterans face long wait times for treatment and have limited access to specialized care. There’s also a lack of understanding among healthcare providers about the unique challenges veterans face. 

Without accessible, veteran-centric health care, affected individuals can resort to relying on substances to somehow manage their conditions.

Treatment for Substance Abuse

Substance abuse among veterans is quite an intricate matter. If anything, it requires a comprehensive approach that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction. 

Personalized treatment plans often include therapy, medication management, and support groups. Collectively, these techniques and strategies can help veterans regain control over their lives. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and other therapeutic methods have proven particularly effective in helping veterans confront and cope with any underlying issues.

In addition to psychological support, many veterans benefit from structured rehabilitation programs that provide a sense of community alongside ongoing care. These programs aim to equip veterans with the tools they need to achieve long-term sobriety and improve their overall quality of life.

veterans addiction statistics

Source: Freepik

Helping Veterans Win Their Battles with Addiction

Various factors contribute to higher rates of substance abuse among veterans — from traumatic experiences and mental health disorders to the difficulties of reintegration into civilian life and the cultural barriers to seeking help. 

When treating this condition, it’s important for healthcare professionals to address both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction. Usually, personalized plans encompass therapy, medication management, and support groups. Structured rehabilitation programs are also available.

Do you know a veteran struggling with this issue? Have you been asking yourself, “Where can I find a drug or alcohol rehab near me?” Find the answer you need at Oregon Trail Recovery

We acknowledge their valiance and vulnerability. They’ve fought for freedom, faced tough challenges, and made countless sacrifices. And our professionals are here to provide the support and care necessary to help them win this battle. Reach out today!