Alcoholism in Military Veterans: Stats, Causes & Effects

Last Updated: December 11, 2023

The stress endured during combat can leave a lasting impact on military veterans. Some may resort to substances, such as alcohol, as a means of coping. While alcohol might offer temporary relief, prolonged misuse can lead to addiction.

Statistics on Alcoholism Among Military Veterans 

When we discuss alcoholism in the military, we are addressing alcohol use disorders (AUDs) among veterans. An alcohol use disorder is the formal term for alcohol addiction. Statistics within the military community underscore the prevalence of AUDs. Consider these figures:

  • A nationwide survey involving over 3,000 veterans revealed that 42.2% had experienced an AUD at some point, with 14.8% exhibiting AUD symptoms in the year preceding the survey.
  • This study also noted that younger males within the veteran community faced a higher risk of AUDs.
  • Another recent study found that Gulf War veterans were 33% more likely to have an AUD than their non-deployed counterparts, while Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were 36% more likely.

Factors Contributing to Alcohol Abuse Among Veterans 

Alcohol consumption among veterans may stem from various motives. Some veterans may turn to alcohol to cope with depression or anxiety, while others may do so for social reasons or to fit in.

PTSD 

A profound connection exists between PTSD and alcohol misuse in veterans. Veterans grappling with PTSD are more inclined to use alcohol as a means of coping with negative emotions. Furthermore, those who have endured multiple traumatic events throughout their lives face an elevated risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. Research involving veterans has demonstrated that 55–68% of those with PTSD also have an AUD, a rate higher than that among veterans without PTSD.

Depression 

Alcohol may also serve as an escape from the clutches of depression for veterans. Studies have shown that veterans may be driven to drink to alleviate depression, particularly when depression is coupled with PTSD.

Military Sexual Trauma (MST) 

Although much of the research regarding MST has focused on female veterans, it’s essential to recognize its potential impact on male veterans as well. One study examining the experiences of female veterans found that those who reported alcohol consumption were more likely to have a history of MST compared to non-drinkers. This study also indicated that women with a history of MST may turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism for depression or as a means to evade uncomfortable emotions.

The Impact of Alcohol Addiction on Veterans 

While alcohol may offer temporary respite for veterans, the truth remains that it provides only fleeting relief. When alcohol becomes the primary coping mechanism, veterans face the risk of addiction and the ensuing negative consequences.

Homelessness 

Alcohol misuse can culminate in homelessness among veterans who struggle to maintain employment or fulfill their financial obligations due to alcohol abuse. Research conducted on veterans revealed that alcohol misuse elevates the risk of experiencing homelessness for six or more months. Behaviors such as driving under the influence are also associated with homelessness.

Self-Harm and Suicide 

Veterans grappling with alcohol addiction also confront a heightened risk of self-harm and suicide. In fact, research indicates that veterans who grapple with an AUD are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide at some point in their lives.

Strained Relationships 

Persisting with alcohol consumption despite relationship issues arising from misuse is a hallmark of an alcohol use disorder. Veterans living with alcohol addiction may grapple with relationship conflicts. This can include growing distant from friends and family or engaging in disputes with a spouse or children over alcohol misuse.

Is Alcoholism Considered a Disability by the VA? 

Veterans who sustain injuries or illnesses as a result of their military service or experience deteriorating health while in service may qualify for disability benefits through the VA. To be eligible, they must furnish documentation of their disability and initiate a claim for disability compensation. Mental health conditions like PTSD, depression, and anxiety may render veterans eligible to receive disability benefits.

If you are grappling with an alcohol use disorder alongside PTSD from your service, you may be eligible for benefits. Nevertheless, veterans typically do not qualify for disability benefits based solely on alcohol use. Reach out to the VA for more information.

Alcohol Addiction Recovery for Military Veterans 

If you are seeking alcohol addiction treatment in Florida, The Orlando Recovery Center offers tailored options for veterans. We offer multiple levels of care, including an inpatient treatment program that allows you to recover in a comfortable setting. We are also equipped to address co-occurring mental health disorders, including PTSD. Contact one of our Recovery Advocates today to explore your options or initiate your journey toward recovery.

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When you call our team, you will speak to a Recovery Advocate who will answer any questions and perform a pre-assessment to determine your eligibility for treatment. If eligible, we will create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. If The Recovery Village is not the right fit for you or your loved one, we will help refer you to a facility that is. All calls are 100% free and confidential.

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