On May 31, 2023

Help for veterans who struggle with substance abuse


By Veronica Raussin

Editor’s note: Veronica Raussin is the community outreach coordinator for Addicted.org.

On Memorial Day, millions of American families took  time to honor the memory of those who lost their lives fighting in one of the nation’s wars. It can be challenging for families who recently lost a loved one. 

We must also never forget the veterans who lost their lives after making it home because of addiction, drug overdose, or suicide. 

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 3.9 million veterans nationally have a substance use disorder or mental illness.  Substance use disorder significantly increases suicidality among veterans ages 18 and older. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are also common among veterans ages 18 to 49.

“Early intervention saves lives, but it can be challenging for families to know where to seek help or how to access treatment,” said Michael Leach of Addicted.org.  

Numerous causative factors lead to substance use disorders among veterans. For instance, many vets struggle to adjust to civilian life. They may experience financial hardships, difficulty finding employment, or accessing benefits.
Many other veterans struggle with mental and emotional health problems. This can often be compounded with physical pain or chronic injury leading to pain medication use. Untreated trauma, for example, increases rates of drug use to cope with unwanted feelings. 

There can also be barriers to treatment, such as cost and gaps in health insurance. Stigma regarding addiction is still prominent. Veterans in rural areas have limited access to treatment. Communities may not have enough funding for more support options. 

Besides the usual support provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the VA facility locator, other support options may include:

Vermont Office of Veterans Affairs provides support for veterans and their families;

ThinkVermont offers various services and support for veterans, such as job transition assistance;

Pathways Vermont provides supportive services for veterans’ families;

Helpful hotlines include the Veteran Crisis Line, 1-800-273-8255, and the Lifeline for Vets, 1-888-777-4443;

SAMHSA has a treatment facility locator where veterans can find specific help for addiction in Vermont.

Families also play a critical role in helping their loved ones addicted to drugs. It’s ok to express concern about their drug and alcohol use. Speak to them openly and honestly about their substance use. Help them find treatment.  

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