Supporting our surviving heroes: Millions of veterans struggle with substance use disorder

As Americans celebrate Memorial Day, it’s also important to recognize the millions of service members who survived but struggle with other battles related to their service, including substance use and mental health disorders.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a staggering 3.9 million veterans in the United States grapple with either a substance use disorder or a mental illness. Disturbingly, approximately 12% of these individuals have experienced serious thoughts of suicide. In addition, among veterans aged 18 to 49, more than 30% used illicit drugs in the past year.

These brave men and women, who have served our country, endure various challenges stemming from traumatic events. Some veterans attempt to cope or self-medicate by resorting to alcohol or other addictive substances.

Among military personnel, alcohol use disorders and binge drinking are the most prevalent forms of substance use disorders. 65% of veterans seeking treatment, be it inpatient or outpatient, report alcohol as the substance they most frequently misuse, which is almost double that of the general population.

Tragically, on average, 17 veterans die by suicide every day. However, there is promising news in the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found that after a peak in veteran suicides in 2018, deaths fell by almost 10% from 2018 to 2020.

If you or a loved one is grappling with mental health or substance abuse issues, it is important to seek help. Emily’s Hope has compiled a comprehensive list of resources.

Furthermore, veterans can access free assistance through the Veterans Crisis Line. This resource is staffed by trained responders, many of whom are also veterans, ready to provide support during moments of crisis. You can reach out through various channels:

  • Call Dial 988 then Press 1
  • Send a text message to 838255
  • Start a Live Chat
  • Visit the website

Remember, seeking help is a courageous step towards healing, and there are organizations and individuals ready to offer support to veterans and their loved ones.