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Created On Tuesday, 12, January 2016
Modified On Wednesday, 31, March 2021

Information on Substance Abuse Treatment for Military Personnel & Veterans

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Active duty and retired military members are not immune to the substance use problems that affect society. There are significant deployment stressors during wartime, along with the unique culture of the military, which increases the risk of drug and alcohol addiction. For example, someone who has gone through multiple deployments and had combat exposure and related injuries are at the greatest risk of developing an addiction. Unfortunately, the number of active duty service members that ask for help is low. There are zero-tolerance policies and a significant stigma surround addiction in the military that prevent most active duty service personnel from not asking for help.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, deployment is associated with smoking initiation, unhealthy drinking, drug use, and risky behaviors. Within the military are zero-tolerance policies, lack of confidentiality, and mandatory random drug testing that deters drug use. Still, it also adds a stigma and may discourage people from asking for help. However, there are treatment options and services provided within the military for active-duty personnel and retired veterans. Treatment services are provided through health insurance providers, Veterans Affairs, and programs like counseling and therapy provided within the military.

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Although there are still barriers for those who need help. Per NIDA, half of the military personnel have reported that they believe seeking help for mental health issues would negatively affect their military career. Active duty service members can even face a dishonorable discharge and criminal prosecution for a positive drug test. Overall, illicit drug use in the military is relatively low, and prescription drug misuse has declined, yet binge drinking rates are high compared to the general population. More than one in ten veterans have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder, which is slightly higher than the general population.

How do Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs Operate for Members of the Military and Veterans?

According to an article talking about substance abuse prevention, treatment, and research efforts in the military, the United States Congress has identified options to address substance abuse within the military. The Department of Defense has substance abuse policies that are implemented by various DOD components and each military service. The focus is on administrative and medical approaches to prevention, screening, treatment, compliance, and retention/separation. The substance abuse policies involve conducting substance use education and awareness activities and implementing a urinalysis drug testing program.

Additionally, the DOD conducts regular and systematic medical screening for at-risk substance use and provides evidence-based substance use disorder services to eligible services members. The purpose is to return service members to full duty foll