Substance use disorders (SUD) are prevalent among military veterans. Just serving in the military is a risk factor for increased alcohol use, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
“Alcoholism is prevalent in veterans primarily because many veterans—and particularly those who were deployed to combat zones or experienced military sexual trauma—have been through numerous traumatic circumstances and may be struggling to cope,” Dr. Aaron Weiner, a board-certified and licensed clinical psychologist, and addiction treatment specialist, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “As veterans experience more traumatic experiences than the general population, a greater number of them resort to substance use to cope with the impact of those experiences.”
Veterans may choose to drink alcohol for any number of reasons including stress relief, escape from the strict rigors of service, bonding with fellow service members, or as a way to cope with being away from family and friends, constant uprooting and moving, or experiences witnessed during deployment and action. Veterans who completed their service sometimes rely on alcohol to combat post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression related to their military service.
Drinking, for whatever reason, becomes problematic when it interferes with your responsibilities and you can't stop despite the possible negative life consequences.
Alcoholism Treatment Options for Veterans
After identifying you or a loved one who served in the armed forces has a problem with alcohol, it’s time to seek treatment.
Treatment options can vary between residential treatment, which involves living at a treatment facility for a given period of time, to outpatient treatments including group and individual therapy. While treatment for veterans is not much different from that of other people struggling with alcoholism, the main difference is whether you choose to seek help through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) or from a private insurer. The variety of options available may be limited or expanded based on your provider.
“In general, veterans receive similar treatments as the general population,” says Dr. Amy L. Jarvis, a board-certified neurologist, who has experience helping veterans cope with substance abuse issues. “The main difference would be the accessibility of the veteran to medical care and insurance status if they are not cared for within the VA system.”
If you are seeking treatment without insurance and outside of the VA system, some addiction treatment centers offer scholarships to those in need. In addition, many state governments also have programs that provide treatment at little to know cost based on financial need.
Don’t Wait. Get Help Now.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help connect you with the services you may need.