Veterans, especially those who experienced combat, have a higher rate of substance use disorder (SUD) than the general population. A 2013 report by the National Academy of Sciences found 44 percent of veterans returning from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan experienced SUD, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other challenges.
Homelessness, incarceration, and suicide are also more prevalent among veterans than the general population. Almost half of incarcerated veterans were arrested for drug violations, and over 60 percent meet the criteria for SUD.
Veterans diagnosed with SUD, PTSD and other mental illnesses are at a greater risk of homelessness, substance use relapse, and related hospital admissions than the general population.
It’s estimated that approximately 22 veterans die by suicide every day in the United States. Studies indicate PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) are among the greatest risk factors for veteran suicide. Research also shows that female veterans with SUD have an increased risk of suicide.
Co-occurring SUD and mental disorders are common among veterans, with co-occurring SUD and PTSD being especially prevalent. One national epidemiologic study found almost 47 percent of veterans with PTSD also met diagnostic criteria for SUD.
Veterans who experience combat, multiple deployments, physical torture, and serious injury are at the greatest risk for SUD, PTSD, and other mental disorders. These individuals also have the greatest risk of relapse in recovery.
Better treatment options for veterans are crucial. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) warns that only about half of veterans receive the mental health or substance use treatment they need.
There are many factors that contribute to the treatment gap for veterans, including individual beliefs, societal stigma, organizational and logistical shortcomings, and more. Treatment barriers may include:
- Viewing seeking help as a sign of weakness
- Embarrassment or shame about addiction or mental health issues
- Worry that treatment services will affect job eligibility
- Long wait times for services with the VA
- Lack of faith in VA medical system; private providers or coverage may not be feasible
- Logistical issues in accessing services due to location, including homelessness
- Not understanding or unaware of treatment options
To address some of these issues, the Department of Defense and the VA have instituted several changes in recent years. This includes increasing the number of outreach programs to help veterans access services in more remote locations, hiring more mental health providers, and increasing the number of psychological health treatment programs available to veterans.
Recovery Resources For Veterans
Below are links to some online resources for veterans. If you are a veteran contemplating suicide, or otherwise in need of immediate help, call the Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 and press option 1.
- VA treatment programs for substance use problems
- VA mental health support
- Veterans Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program
- VA telehealth services
- SAMHSA virtual recovery resources
Seeking help takes courage, but it can save and transform your life. Contact an addiction specialist today to learn about the many effective treatment approaches for substance use and mental disorders.
Turning Point of Tampa has been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987. If you need help or know someone who does, please contact our admissions department at 813-882-3003, 800-397-3006 or firstname.lastname@example.org.