Navigating the Battlefield Within: Alcohol Use Disorder Among Military Veterans

military veteran with his hat over his heart

When military service fades into memory and the uniform is retired, many veterans find themselves facing another formidable adversary: addiction. Transitioning from the military to civilian life can be challenging, often laden with unique stressors and traumas.

The Toll of Trauma

The harrowing experiences of combat, coupled with the demands and rigors of military life, can leave lasting mental and emotional scars. What’s more, many veterans find it challenging to find a sense of belonging or purpose outside of the military, leading to feelings of alienation and loneliness. For some, alcohol becomes a coping mechanism, a way to manage memories too difficult to confront directly. Sadly, though, what begins as temporary refuge can swiftly spiral into addiction, trapping veterans in a cycle of dependency and despair.

The invisible wounds of war, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI), further compound the risk of alcohol abuse among veterans. PTSD, in particular, can manifest as intrusive memories, hypervigilance, and debilitating anxiety, driving many veterans to self-medicate with alcohol as a means of escape. The VA Hospital system estimates that more than one in 10 Veterans who seek care at their facilities meet DSM-V criteria for a substance use disorder- a rate much higher than the general population.

Barriers to Care

Access to adequate mental health care is a significant challenge for veterans struggling with alcohol use disorder. Stigma, logistical challenges, limited insurance options, and limited resources are obstacles many face. Currently, unlike active-duty military who get healthcare for free, members of the National Guard are required to pay for their healthcare coverage, which limits resources and access to addiction treatment for many who cannot afford to pay monthly premiums.   Additionally, a warrior mindset can discourage service members from seeking assistance, perpetuating a cycle of silence, suffering, and self-medicating.

A Call for Comprehensive Support

Addressing the complex issue of alcohol abuse among military veterans requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses comprehensive mental health support, accessible and affordable addiction treatment programs, and multi-disciplinary long-term community-based interventions such as the in-home addiction treatment program found at Aware Recovery Care.

Honoring Their Sacrifice

We owe a debt of gratitude to those who’ve served our country. To honor their service, we need to make sure they receive the support they need to overcome addiction. By providing them with the support they need, we can help them reclaim their lives and honor their sacrifice with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Recovery Support Available

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to opioids, other drugs, and/or alcohol and need help in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, or Indiana, the recovery teams at Aware Recovery Care are here to help. And we come to you, regardless of where you live. Our unique in-home treatment model of care gives clients a significantly better chance of recovery than traditional inpatient rehab care. We are now offering Virtual Detox and Medication Assisted Treatment in New Hampshire, Connecticut, Virginia, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. Please get in touch with one of our Recovery Specialists to learn more.

About the author…Dr. Lauren Grawert MD.

Dr. Grawert is a double board-certified Addiction Psychiatrist. She completed her medical school training in 2009 and a General Psychiatry Residency in 2013 at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). She then went on to complete an Addiction Psychiatry fellowship at MUSC, which she completed in 2014. After fellowship training, Dr. Grawert served as the Chief of Psychiatry and Addiction at Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic. She has also worked in private practice specializing in general psychiatry, substance use disorders, and medically assisted treatment (MAT). Dr. Grawert has served as an expert for the San Diego Community Response to Drug Overdose Task Force, the Addiction Committee Leader for Kaiser Permanente National Mental Health & Addiction Leadership Organization, and a Professor of Psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine. She likes to write, travel, and spend time with her two young children in her spare time.