Veterans and Addiction


Veterans that suffer from substance abuse manifest an important developing concern in the US because of the consequences of military personnel deployment. These people tend to experience mental and physical health problems after deployment, becoming more susceptible to substance abuse and addiction (Back et al., 2016). Moreover, they start practicing self-medication as a remedy for their mental and physical problems, which further exacerbates the problem. This paper focuses on the impact of the veterans’ addiction on society, the historical changes, the influence of the information, and the implications of the topic.

The Impact on Society

Several studies have demonstrated a connection between the veteran substance addiction, depression, and suicide. It was shown that from about 600 veterans deployed, 39% were found to be substance abusers (Westermeyer & Lee, 2013). The rate of suicide in the military was about 20% across all military services in the US. Therefore, this has prompted an increased concern for depressed individuals. Veterans’ addiction is mostly associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and both have to be treated equally for the victims to recover fully. If one is treated and the other is left out, the one that is left untreated is likely to re-occur and damage the affected person even more.

There are increasing suicide rates, with about 22 of the veterans committing suicide every day. About three in every five of those involved are diagnosed with substance abuse or mental health problems. A 2010 report indicated that about 29% of the Army personnel committed suicide (Oslin et al., 2014). In 2014, about 1,126 attempts were reported, with the majority of cases involving substance abuse (Oslin et al., 2014).

The rate of homelessness of the veterans is about 10%, with three-quarters of the total number experiencing substance abuse problems. Those under treatment constitute about one-fifth of the total number. A 2011 report showed that more veterans were homeless than the non-veterans, with 76% being affected by the substance abuse disorder (Oslin et al., 2014). Therefore, this is an indication that one of the causes of homelessness among veterans is substance abuse. The veterans who have endured traumatic issues and substance abuse have difficulty in building relationships with other people. They have problems relating to their loved ones, families, and friends. This misunderstanding makes the people alienate the veterans, moving them further into the use of drugs to curb the feeling of loneliness.

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Historical Changes

Substance abuse by veterans dates back to the Civil War. Morphine abuse was widespread during World War I, and amphetamine abuse started during World War II. Substance abuse was associated with war and hard drugs, such as heroin. Currently, drug prescription has been implemented to address substance abuse issues, encouraging rehabilitation for those who are adversely affected.

A policy supporting zero tolerance for substance abuse was instituted in 1982 in the Department of Defense. The policy reduced the number of personnel suffering from this form of abuse. This policy is currently applicable, with many random tests being conducted. However, the abuse of the prescribed drugs is still very high among military officers. In 2002, 2% were reported to be substance abusers, and the rate grew to 4% in 2005 (Bachhuber et al., 2014). A 2008 report highlighted that about 11% of the members still misused the drugs (Laudet et al., 2014). The most common drugs included opioid pain reliever medication. Between 2006 and 2009, about 397 of the officers were found to be affected by substance abuse, with 45% of them dying as a result of a drug overdose and alcohol abuse (Laudet et al., 2014).

The addiction to the substances in 2011 was reported to be about 20%, with the majority of those affected being under rehabilitation and treatment. Most of the victims admitted having been drinking alcohol about three times a week. The majority of veterans admitted using street drugs due to post-traumatic stress (Laudet et al., 2014). It underlines that the problem still prevails.

Implications of the Topic

There are several implications of the topic concerning veteran addiction and treatment. They emanate from the fact that the nature of the veterans’ work contributes considerably to the mental and physical health issues. One of the implications is that there is a need for addicted patients to receive quality care. It is highly recommended to improve the capitation of the health care system (Laudet et al., 2014). A suitable environment must be created in which the investment in the management and promotion of healthcare give a greater return.

There is also a need to re-engineer the healthcare system to enhance the quality of care offered to veterans. Technology incorporation will be necessary for treatment, detection of performance levels, and reporting. Technology use will impact the integration of service delivery to achieve efficient, high-quality, and timely healthcare.

The Impact of the Information on the Counselors

The veterans who suffer from addiction have unique needs because most of them encounter both stress-related issues and physical injuries. The majority of them suffer from PTSD and other related problems, which develop as a result of the war experiences. Many of the veterans suffer from long-term grief due to the loss of their companions and friends. This often leads to the feelings of guilt associated with the reality that they failed to protect the close ones. The feeling of being powerless prompts depression. Depression is mostly associated with suicide attempts and mental illnesses that develop as a result of stress (Bachhuber et al., 2014). Therefore, the information on addiction and treatment will aid them in handling their issues and overcoming difficulties.

The veterans under treatment, especially with the physical injuries, tend to abuse the drugs given for medication due to the psychological stress. Those who suffer from mental illness are usually given opioids and the antidepressants, which exposes them to the risk of an overdose. Therefore, the relevant information on the issue may assist the counselors in the development of better strategies for handling veterans’ concerns.

Efforts to help the victims of addiction involve talking to the healthcare professional specializing in the treatment of post-traumatic stress and related illnesses. The symptoms will only improve with proper treatment and therapy aimed at restoring the stability in the victim’s life. Therefore, this information will help the counselors to deal with the affected and their relatives during the therapies to restore their balance.


The majority of veterans face substance abuse and addiction, which leads to social, emotional, physical, and communication problems. The addiction appears due to self-medication as a result of post-traumatic stress associated with war experiences. To mitigate the situation of widespread drug abuse by veterans, there is a particular need to conduct specialized training and employ more specific experts who can address the problem of veterans’ addiction.



Bachhuber, M. A., Roberts, C. B., Metraux, S., & Montgomery, A. E. (2014). Screening for homelessness among individuals initiating medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder in the Veterans Health Administration. Journal of Opioid Management, 11(6), 459-462.

Back, S. E., Killeen, T., Badour, C., Flanagan, J., Korte, K., & Brady, K. T. (2016). Integrated treatment of PTSD and addiction in veterans using prolonged exposure. In Annual Convention of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Dallas, TX, USA (pp.10-12). ISTS.

Laudet, A., Timko, C., & Hill, T. (2014). Comparing life experiences in active addiction and recovery between veterans and non-veterans: A national study. Journal of Addictive Diseases, 33(2), 148-162.

Oslin, D. W., Lynch, K. G., Maisto, S. A., Lantinga, L. J., McKay, J. R., Possemato, K., Ingram, E., & Wierzbicki, M. (2014). A randomized clinical trial of alcohol care management delivered in Department of Veterans Affairs primary care clinics versus specialty addiction treatment. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 29(1), 162-168.

Westermeyer, J., & Lee, K. (2013). Residential placement for veterans with addiction: American Society of Addiction Medicine criteria vs. a veterans homeless program. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 201(7), 567-571.