Alcoholism in Veterans: Causes and Effects

Just because people leave the military doesn’t mean the military leaves them. While there are many traits learned in the Armed Forces that carry over positively into civilian life, this isn’t the case for everything. One of the biggest issues facing the men and women who served America is alcoholism in veterans. Unfortunately, many aspects of the military can cause this.

Transformations Mending Fences has a certified staff of professionals who understand that members of the Armed Forces experience things most of us couldn’t imagine. And in many cases, this leads to lifelong repercussions such as mental health issues and substance abuse disorders. One of the biggest problems, though, is alcoholism among veterans. Understanding the causes and potential effects of this problem is essential for healing.

Causes of Alcoholism in Veterans

There are a variety of issues that can lead to alcoholism in veterans, but the first step should be simply acknowledging the problem. While one might expect that the military’s zero-tolerance drug policy could lead service members to other unhealthy coping mechanisms, it’s unfair to make such an assumption without proof. Unfortunately, there’s plenty of that to go around:

  • Veterans are more likely to drink compared to civilians (i.e., 56.6 percent vs. 50.8 percent).
  • Veterans are more likely to engage in heavy alcohol use than civilians (i.e., 7.5 percent vs. 6.5 percent).
  • Among veterans who enter treatment programs, 65 percent say they abuse alcohol most frequently. This is twice the rate of the civilian population.

Alcoholism in veterans isn’t an issue that simply arises when someone leaves the military. Studies have shown that around one-third of service members engage in binge drinking. Only one-fourth of the civilian population falls into this category. Similarly, one-third of military members meet the criteria of alcohol use disorder or hazardous drinking.

One explanation of higher drinking levels is that service members are typically younger than the general public. Unfortunately, the problem often follows former military personnel long after they’ve left their younger years behind. In many cases, mental health issues developed during service are a direct cause of this.

Far too often, the people who served our country end up self-medicating to deal with their own problems. Each of the following disorders at least partially explains alcoholism in veterans:

  • Trauma disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression and mood disorders
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Other serious combat injuries

As evidenced by these causes of alcoholism in veterans, alcohol abuse can stem from psychological or physical problems. Being away from home, exposure to violence, unpredictable deployments, a constant risk of injury and a variety of other factors can easily result in the development of these disorders.

When alcoholism in veterans accompanies another mental health issue, it’s known as a co-occurring disorder. Of course, not all instances of alcohol abuse fall into this category. Some individuals abuse alcohol simply because they’re predisposed to do so. Regardless of the underlying cause, though, there is help available.

Contact us at Transformations Treatment Center today to learn your options.

Effects of Alcoholism in Veterans

Veterans who deal with alcoholism have many issues to contend with, but the effects of the disorder can prove debilitating. There are several outcomes one would typically expect among those dealing with alcohol abuse — such as family and legal issues — but the problems stemming from alcoholism in veterans can prove much more serious.

One of the biggest problems is that alcohol doesn’t treat the issues that veterans are trying to cope with. In fact, many of the symptoms of certain psychological disorders can worsen with alcohol abuse. We far too often see vets escalate to violence when symptoms of aggression combine with intoxication.

Additionally, studies have found that over half of the veteran homeless population deals with an alcohol abuse problem. To really understand the potentially tragic effects of alcoholism in veterans, though, one need only look at the suicide rate among returning soldiers. Both alcohol and drug problems have shown to increase the risk of suicide among veterans.

If you or a loved one are facing difficulty after coming home, it’s imperative that you seek a veterans treatment program.

Overcoming Alcoholism in Veterans Is Possible

The problem of alcoholism in the military is so prevalent that some branches have promised to provide treatment without notification to a soldier’s commanders. Unfortunately, this does little for those who have transitioned back to civilian life with alcohol use disorder. Unhealthy drinking is an understandable outcome of the stress seen in the military, but there is help available.

Transformations Mending Fences offers programs devoted to veterans and first responders. We understand that any drinking problem can lead to serious effects on a person’s life. The men and women who served America shouldn’t have to face these battles alone. Contact us today to learn how we can help you get on track and take your life back.


U.S. Army

National Institute on Drub Abuse

RAND Corporation

Addictive Behaviors

University of Michigan