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Drug Use in the Military

Man talks in group therapy about his drug use in the military

Drug use in the military is a complex issue that significantly impacts individuals, families, and society. While alcohol is ingrained in the military culture, drug use can result in criminal charges or dishonorable discharge. Active-duty military members have lower rates of illicit drug use than veterans. However, prescription painkiller use and abuse are high among the active-duty military.

It is estimated that more than one in ten veterans have been diagnosed with substance use disorder (SUD) at some point following service. The actual rate of SUD is challenging to pinpoint because so many veterans do not seek the help they need. Addiction treatment for military members and veterans is critically needed.

Vertava Health works with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide comprehensive addiction treatment tailored to the unique needs of military members and veterans. Call 844.470.0410 to learn how we can help you or a loved one.

Contributing Factors to Drug Use in the Military

While there is no one reason why people abuse drugs and alcohol, various risk factors can make substance abuse more likely. Military service, past and present, is associated with additional risk factors unique to the military population.

Combat Experience

The most notable risk factor associated with drug abuse and the development of SUD is deployment to a combat zone, where repeated exposure to trauma and ongoing high-stress situations is typical. Veterans with multiple deployments may be at even higher risk because of the cumulative effects of these experiences.

Increased Risk for Injury

The active and strenuous nature of many military jobs, including combat, puts members at higher risk for physical injuries, the treatment of which often includes prescription opioids which carry a known risk for misuse and abuse.

Psychological Distress

Often referred to as the ‘invisible wounds” of military service, conditions including PTSD, depression, anxiety, and traumatic brain injury (TBI) can increase the risk of drug use when veterans rely on substances to self-medicate.

Chronic Pain

Veterans are subject to chronic pain from injuries sustained in the line of duty. Again, these injuries are typically treated with opioids and other medicationwith a high potential for physical and psychological dependence.


The transition from active duty to civilian life is challenging for many veterans who may face difficulties finding housing, employment, mental health support, and establishing connections outside of the culture to which they’ve grown accustomed.

Drug use among veterans is a serious and pervasive issue that requires comprehensive intervention. While many veterans successfully reintegrate into civilian life without major disruptions, those who struggle with substance use and mental health disorders must have access to resources to assist them. Vertava Health is committed to being a resource for veterans in need.

What to Expect from Drug Use Treatment for Veterans

The most common barriers to drug addiction treatment for veterans are the stigma attached to reaching out for help and limited access to treatment centers tailored to the unique needs of this population. A lesser-cited barrier is a fear of not knowing what to expect in treatment.

At Vertava Health, we take time to get to know each patient and provide exceptional comprehensive treatment designed to meet their needs. We rely on evidence-based and holistic treatment modalities including, but not limited to:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Trauma therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Animal-assisted therapy
  • 12-step therapy programs
  • Relapse prevention therapy

Treatment also includes education about substance use disorders, mental health disorders, trauma, and how they interact and impact each other and all areas of life. Vertava Health’s addiction treatment programs for military members and veterans occur in a safe, supportive environment with other patients who have similar experiences. Our veterans’ addiction treatment programs help create a foundational support network to foster long-term healing and recovery.

Contact Vertava Health for Veteran Addiction Support and Recovery

Too often, veterans and their family members do not seek out or have access to the support services they need. Vertava Health provides programs and services tailored to the unique needs of military personnel, veterans, and their families. Contact us at 844.470.0410 to learn how we can help you or your loved one following drug use in the military.