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How Veterans Can Address Substance Misuse

Soldiers hugging parent

Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Rebekka Heite

Substance misuse is a common concern facing service members, veterans and civilians. Substances like alcohol, tobacco and drugs may be used as a way to cope with stress related to combat, reintegration or a psychological health concern. Although using substances may feel like a way to destress or give you relief, their misuse can have a lasting, serious impact on your life. These impacts can include harm to your health and relationships. They can also lead to work troubles, financial or legal difficulties, or even death.

Trying to cut back or quit on your own can be hard, but change is possible when you are ready. Seeking care early can help you take back control of your health and lead to successful, positive outcomes.

Identify Misuse

Recognizing the signs of substance misuse is the first step to making a change. Common signs of substance misuse include:

  • Using a substance more frequently or for longer than intended; for example, a prescription drug
  • Feeling a strong urge or need to use
  • Trying to cut down or stop, but unable to do so
  • Having to use/drink more than you once did to get the desired effect
  • Having withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness and nausea
  • Getting into situations that increase harm to yourself or others
  • Using a substance even though it may be interfering with daily life or relationships
  • Giving up hobbies once important to you

Take a self-assessment to help identify how substances may be impacting you.

Consider a Change

Substance use may not feel like a bad habit, even if it is negatively affecting your life. Take time to think about reasons to change, and compare those to reasons for staying the same. You can use a pro and con worksheet [PDF 59.06KB] to help. Once you realize that the pros to making a change outweigh the cons, you may be more committed and ready to take action or seek care. It is at this stage that you are ready to make a change [PDF 10.45MB].

Make a Change

Most change does not occur overnight. It is a gradual process that may have some setbacks. Talk with your health care provider if you have questions. They can work with you to make a plan for addressing substance misuse. Some other resources to help you change include:

Remember, reaching out is a sign of strength. If you or a loved one needs additional support, contact the DCoE Outreach Center 24/7 to confidentially speak with a trained health resource consultant, call 866-966-1020 or use the Real Warriors Live Chat. You can also visit our “Seek Help, Find Care” page to see a list of key psychological health resources.

Additional Resources

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