Veterans & Alcoholism: Causes, Impact and Support for Recovery

Last Updated: September 22, 2023

Alcoholism among U.S. veterans is a pressing issue rooted in unique challenges during military service and the transition to civilian life. Mental health disorders, physical injuries and coping with trauma contribute to alcoholism among our nation’s heroes. Understanding these complex factors and the specialized resources available for support and recovery is crucial in helping veterans achieve lasting sobriety and live a self-directed life. 

How Common Is Alcohol Addiction Among Veterans?

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), one in 10 veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan struggles with alcoholism. This rate of alcoholism is near twice that of the general population. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that 12% of veterans have a substance use disorder, including alcoholism. 

Risk Factors for Alcoholism in Veterans 


PTSD is a mental health condition primarily caused by exposure to traumatic experiences. Veterans with PTSD may suffer from disturbing flashbacks, nightmares and emotional numbness, which can alienate them from their loved ones. One study reported that roughly 30% of veterans seeking treatment for PTSD also met the criteria for a current alcohol dependence diagnosis. 

Physical Injuries

Veterans face higher rates of physical injuries that may require multiple surgeries and long-term pain management. In order to cope with the ongoing physical pain and emotional distress of these procedures, they may turn to increased alcohol consumption. This pattern of self-medication can then create a vicious cycle: increased alcohol intake can disrupt the healing process, exacerbate symptoms and prolong recovery. 

Military Culture 

The culture of camaraderie within the military profoundly influences alcohol consumption and addiction among veterans. Alcohol consumption is often seen as a normal part of recreational activities and social bonding. In this way, drinking together helps build trust and a sense of teamwork. However, this drinking culture can also lead to unhealthy behaviors such as binge drinking and heavy alcohol use. This is especially true for people with a family history of alcoholism or past traumas. 

Benefits of Veteran-Specific Treatment 

Tailored programs and support groups addressing veterans’ unique needs and experiences can play crucial roles in recovery.  

Veteran-specific treatment programs and support groups acknowledge veterans’ unique service-related traumas and experiences. Many veterans have faced serious psychological hardship during their service, including exposure to combat, injury and loss of friends. 

Veteran-oriented treatment programs help address these comorbid conditions and the underlying addiction, ensuring a holistic approach to recovery.

Additionally, veteran-specific support groups provide a valuable opportunity for veterans to connect with others who share similar experiences and understand their unique challenges. 

Veteran Recovery Is Our Mission

Our facilities have helped thousands of veterans overcome a drug or alcohol addiction. At Orlando Recovery Center, our treatment programs offer veterans:

  • Veteran Advocates who can navigate the VA on your behalf to enter treatment faster
  • Experienced clinicians trained in military culture and trauma-informed care
  • Dual diagnosis to treat addiction and mental health disorders together  
  • EMDR, a revolutionary treatment that alleviates trauma symptoms

Specialized Addiction Treatment for Veterans at Orlando Recovery Center

Orlando Recovery Center offers evidence-based therapies to help veterans manage co-occurring mental health issues. By utilizing trauma-informed care and providing cognitive behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and group therapy sessions, veterans can work through their underlying trauma while building the foundation for lasting recovery.

We are also a part of the VA Community Care Network (CCN). If you need help navigating Community Care eligibility or health insurance benefits, our Veteran Advocates are here for you every step of the way. Verify your insurance or get in touch today to begin the admissions process.


NIDA. “Substance Use and Military Life DrugFacts.” October 23, 2019. Accessed APril 21, 2023.

U.S Department of Veterans Affairs. “PTSD Basics.” November 9, 2022. Accessed April 21, 2023.

U.S Department of Veterans Affairs. “PTSD and Substance Abuse in Veterans.” March 30, 2023. Accessed April 21, 2023.

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