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Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Marines

The Marine Corps is one of the smallest branches of the military, but it’s also one of the most highly trained. Its units take on missions that would typically only fall to the most specialized units of other branches, and unfortunately, this has led to high rates of drug and alcohol abuse in the Marines. Even worse, these behaviors are often viewed as acceptable within the ranks.

Transformations at Mending Fences recognizes the intense stressors faced by the men and women of our Marine Corps. These problems are far too often overlooked until it’s too late, and this can result in dangerous addictions, overdoses, unsafe behaviors, and even worse outcomes. Review the Help For Our Heroes Program to learn how we can help.

Causes of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Marines

The U.S. Armed Forces implements very strict rules regarding illegal drug use. This is one reason rates of drug use in the Marines and other military branches remain low compared to the general population. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that illicit drug use and alcohol abuse in the Marines aren’t issues. And when considering causative factors, there are many to consider.

One of the major causes of substance abuse disorder (SUD) in the Marine Corps is mental health issues. Members of the branch may join with no underlying health issues whatsoever. During their service, though, it’s not uncommon to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and trauma disorders. Some Marines will self-medicate to deal with these issues.

These problems can occur for a variety of reasons, but deployment has shown to coincide significantly with problematic behaviors such as:

  • Smoking initiation.
  • Drug use.
  • Unhealthy drinking.
  • Risky behaviors.

Drug abuse in the Marines occurs at a relatively low rate due to the potential consequences. A single failed drug test can lead to a dishonorable discharge or criminal prosecution. Unfortunately, this no longer serves as a deterrent once a service member becomes a veteran. Also, alcohol abuse in the Marines faces less scrutiny since drinking is a legal activity.

The causes of addiction that would lead to higher drug use rates in the general population instead lead to alcohol abuse in the Marine Corps. Regardless of the underlying cause or specific substance linked to addiction, though, it’s important to seek help. Unfortunately, service members often fail to do this.

Addiction Stigma in the Marines

The steps taken by the Armed Forces to reduce alcohol and drug abuse can actually have the opposite effect. While approaches like mandatory drug testing, lack of confidentiality, and zero-tolerance policies can reduce alcohol and drug abuse in the Marines, they can also convince those suffering from substance use disorder to not seek help. This creates big issues.

When looking at personnel overall, about half of service members feel they would damage their careers by reaching out for help with mental health or substance abuse issues. This statistic may vary between branches, but alcohol abuse in the Marines has actually become normalized among enlisted personnel. In fact, they have the highest rate of members who feel military culture is supportive of drinking.

Unfortunately, many Marines see addictive behaviors as more acceptable than seeking help for their issues. Because of this stigmatization, serious problems often go overlooked. And when Marines become veterans, they face higher rates of substance abuse disorder than the general public. Ending addiction stigma in the military is the only way this issue will ever correct itself.

Rates of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Marines

The strict rules in the Marine Corps regarding drug use keep substance abuse rates — or at least those that are reported — low compared to the public. Unfortunately, this branch more than makes up for this lower rate with high instances of alcohol use disorder. Nearly half of all Marines reported “hazardous or disordered drinking” behaviors.

The rate of alcohol use disorder among the public is just over 5%, and the more common behavior of binge drinking occurred in about 26% of the population. While these numbers are certainly distressing, they showcase just how serious the problem of alcohol abuse in the Marines is.

This means if you or a family member have a problem, it’s time to recognize you’re not alone. Contact Transformations at Mending Fences to learn your options, and if you’re the loved one of a Marine in distress, use our Family Member Support Guide for additional guidance.

Substance Abuse Treatment for Marines

Treating substance abuse in members of the Marine Corps can take a variety of forms. While individuality may not be in high demand in the service, this can’t change the fact that every person is different. The underlying causes of what leads to drug and alcohol abuse can vary between individuals, and a treatment approach that works great for one person may not do well with another.

There are specific concerns, though, with drug and alcohol abuse in the Marines. This can make certain therapeutic approaches more likely to help. These include:

  • Grief and loss healing.
  • Emotion-focused therapy (EFT).
  • Stress management.
  • Coping with sexual trauma.
  • Anger management.
  • Detoxification.
  • Suicide awareness and prevention.
  • PTSD treatment.
  • Trauma management.

If you’re dealing with alcohol or drug abuse in the Marines, don’t wait to get help. These issues can have effects that long outlast what you’re going through. Studies have even found that substance abuse rates among dependents of Marines have increased gradually over recent years. If you or a family member has a problem, the time to seek help is now.

Don’t Let Addiction Ruin Your Life

Substance abuse in the Marines — whether it’s alcohol or illicit drugs — is a well-known problem that’s far too often overlooked. Whether it’s due to the normalization of unhealthy habits or because Marines fear stigmatization when reaching out for help, the problem is undeniable. Fortunately, you don’t have to become just another statistic.

Transformations at Mending Fences offers services to anyone who needs them, but military members and veterans know they’ll find solace there. This is why a lot of patients and alumni at Transformations are veterans and first responders. If you’re dealing with drug or alcohol abuse in the Marines, now is the time to realize that you’re not alone.

Contact us today to learn how we can help you take your life back.