Drug Abuse Facts Among Veterans

Drug Abuse Among Veterans

Drug Abuse Facts Among Veterans

Drug Abuse Facts Among Veterans

Drug abuse and alcoholism among military veterans has long been an issue that seems to get little attention. Often chemically dependency results from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and results from dependency to pain prescriptions after injury. The sad fact is that veterans enlist in the military our of sincere desire to protect our country and often come home with debilitating conditions as a result.

Drug Abuse Facts Among Military Service Members From The NIDA:

  • According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, illegal drug use is not as common among military veterans, but severe alcohol and prescription drug abuse is a big issue and is on the rise.
  • Treating addiction is difficult because those dealing with addiction are fearful to seek help due to zero-tolerance policies and stigma within the military.
  • In 2008, 11% of those in the armed forces reported abusing prescription medications, up from 2% in 2002, and 4% in 2005. Most of the prescriptions abused were narcotic pain medications.
  • Between 2001 and 2009, the amount of pain relief prescriptions written by physicians in the military quadrupled to approximately 3.8 million
  • Alcohol use among service members is higher than among civilians. In 2008, 47% of active duty service members reported binge drinking, a 12% increase from 35% in 1998.
  • In 2004, suicides among military personnel increased, surpassing the civilian rate in 2008. In 2010, the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force reported 29% of these suicides between 2005 to 2009 involved alcohol or drug use. In 2009, one-third of the suicides involved prescription drugs.


Drug Abuse Facts and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Veterans:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) often co-occurs with substance abuse disorders. Most military veterans with PTSD are also diagnosed with substance abuse disorder.
  • The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, conducted in the 1980s, found 74% of Vietnam Veterans with PTSD suffered from addiction.
  • 60-80% of Vietnam Veterans that get treatment for PTSD also have problems with alcoholism. 
  • The cause for substance abuse is likely a form of self-medication for the traumatic memories and flashbacks.
  • Veterans over 65 with PTSD pose a higher suicide risk if they have problems with alcohol abuse or depression.


The statistics regarding veterans and substance abuse are alarming and reveal lots of information about the link between trauma and substance abuse. Perhaps through more awareness, more will be done to assist service members in achieving recovery.

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