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May Is National Military Appreciation Month

In honor of National Military Appreciation Month, it’s important to be aware of the unique challenges that U.S. military members face — not on the battlefield but in their everyday lives. The struggles they face are significant, and they deserve our support.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), many military members drink or use drugs to cope with the stressors and mental health impacts of their service. Many military members report drinking, smoking, and drug use as part of initiation or deployment, which poses a risk of further abuse. Random drug tests, base rules, and heavy consequences (including dishonorable discharge) for substance use are meant to deter this behavior. However, an unfortunate result is the stigmatizing of addiction and mental health, as well as fear, shame, or reluctance to seek help if it’s needed. 

When their career is on the line, military members may feel polarized in their addiction. To avoid facing consequences, many do not seek the help they need. Once their military career ends and the constant monitoring of substance use, drinking, and mental health is over, veterans may find themselves turning to drinking or drugs to cope with the traumas they’ve accrued over their career. 


Facts About Military Addiction

A military career can be fulfilling but also highly stressful and traumatic at times. Trauma from a military career is the most frequently cited reason that military members turn to alcohol or drugs after their service. According to NIDA, over 10% of military members have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder (SUD). This is likely due to the prevalence of pain, trauma, mental health issues, homelessness, and suicide risk of many veterans who’ve returned to civilian life without enough support. 

There are multiple types of substance use that affect active military members and veterans:

  • Illicit Drugs: Active military members are cited using illicit drugs the least, with less than 1% of military personnel using illicit drugs. The Department of Defense issued a zero-tolerance policy for illicit drugs after several well-publicized accidents pertaining to drug use in Vietnam veterans. However, today’s veterans are reported to have significantly higher use of illicit drugs. 
  • Alcohol: Alcohol is the most prevalent substance abuse disorder among active-duty military personnel, with more than one-third meeting the criteria of at-risk drinking. Active duty members mostly participate in binge-drinking, with 5.4% meeting the criteria for alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse significantly increases after active duty for many, with 65% of veterans who enter treatment programs citing an addiction to alcohol. 
  • Prescription Drugs/Opioids: Approximately 4% of active military members say they’ve abused a prescription drug. Prescription drug use among veterans is higher, with 9% of veterans categorizing their pain as extreme due to military-related injuries. This puts veterans at a unique and greater risk for opioid addiction. 
  • Smoking: Smoking is prevalent among military members, with 14% of active-duty members identifying as smokers and nearly 30% of veterans smoking cigarettes. Data is skewed for those using e-cigarettes or vapes due to a military ban on these products.


How To Support Military Members

First and foremost, show kindness to those who have served. Military members often come back from deployment and have a hard time reintegrating into society. Military members are publicly celebrated on holidays such as Memorial Day (May 31), Veterans Day (November 11), and other days that honor military branches and military families. But even with these national celebrations, there are still millions of military members who suffer from trauma every day. Many who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and other trauma-induced issues do not get adequate help. 

You can support military members by:

  • Donating to veteran’s programs
  • Volunteering at your local Disabled American Veterans organization (DAV)
  • Creating careers and scholarships for military members
  • Sponsoring military members who struggle with addiction
  • Helping local military families
  • Writing letters and sending care packages to military members who are deployed
  • Starting or supporting preventative programs for military members who have struggled with addiction
  • Writing grants to secure funds and services for active military members and veterans who struggle with addiction or mental health issues

If you are a military member who is struggling, that’s okay. You deserve help, you deserve treatment, and you’re worth saving. 


How To Find Support as a Military Member 

If you are struggling with addiction or mental health issues, many programs are dedicated to supporting active military members and veterans. The United States Department of Defense provides an extensive list of Military Support Organizations. The US Department of Veterans Affairs also provides information and resources for past military personnel. 


Military members who serve our country are worth saving, and they deserve effective treatment. At RECO Intensive, our specialized staff and experienced alumni provide programs that cater specifically to veterans. We understand that military members need care after deployment. That’s why we meet veterans or active military members where they are and work to create an individualized treatment plan just for you. RECO Intensive offers therapy for PTSD, goal-setting to combat addiction in veterans, and family therapy for military members and their families. At RECO Intensive, we know that some battle scars are invisible and can follow us off the battlefield. We want to help you process your trauma without using alcohol or drugs to numb the pain. We also recognize that unprocessed trauma can lead to relapse, and we want to help you find a way to a healthy, sober civilian life. To learn more, call RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future. 

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