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Recognizing and Seeking Help for Substance Misuse

man and woman talking to each other

Source: Photo by SGT Duncan Brennan

Substance misuse is the use of a substance in a way that negatively affects your physical, mental, emotional or social well-being. Examples of substances that can be misused include alcohol, prescription and over the counter medication, illegal drugs, nicotine and even caffeine. Some service members turn to substance use as a way to cope with difficult events or feelings. Signs that substance misuse may be impacting your well-being and health include:

  • Taking more medication than prescribed
  • Feeling guilty after substance use
  • Using more of the substance to get a desired effect
  • Trying to hide how much you use or drink from others
  • Hearing concerns from family and friends about your substance use

Remember that change is possible. Taking action to address substance misuse is a sign of strength and can lead to a happier and healthier life.

Substance Misuse Effects

Substance misuse can affect many areas of your life such as:

  • Work and Financial Situations – Job loss, dishonorable discharge, increased debt and financial difficulty
  • Personal Interests – Lack of interest in activities or hobbies you once enjoyed
  • Personal Relationships – Relationship troubles including frequent arguments with friends or romantic partners or the loss of relationships
  • Psychological Health – Depression, anxiety, feelings of irritability or anger
  • Physical Health – Lack of sleep, nausea, chronic illness

Overcoming Concerns about Getting Help

Overcoming substance misuse can be challenging, but help is out there. Here are some common concerns about seeking care or treatment and how you can overcome them:

  • Career concerns – Watch Real Warriors Campaign profile videos to see how seeking care helped improve the careers of service members.
  • Lack of time – Make your health a priority with easy access to online appointment scheduling and after-hours assistance.  
  • Cost – TRICARE covers substance misuse care and treatment with certain limitations. See below for more information.
  • Confidentiality – Military hospitals and clinics follow strict rules about the protection of your health information. Ask your facility for a copy of their Limits of Confidentiality form for details.

TRICARE Options for Substance Misuse Treatment

The Military Health System provides many options to address substance misuse. As a first step, TRICARE covers in-person formal health assessments with a trained substance abuse professional. Ask your doctor or call your TRICARE regional contractor for a referral. Your provider will review the results and create a care or treatment program based on your needs. Options include:

  • Inpatient detoxification –The process of removing a substance from your system in a health care facility to avoid old habits and temptation.
  • Rehabilitation – Specialized inpatient care or partial-hospitalization to find the reasons behind your substance misuse and create a plan for you to cope without the substance.
  • Outpatient group therapy – Counseling sessions with other service members who have similar concerns about substance use.
  • Family therapy – Therapy that helps the entire family when a service member is having challenges.        

If you are concerned about substance misuse, contact the Psychological Health Resource Center to speak confidentially with trained health resource consultants 24/7 by calling 866-966-1020, use the Real Warriors Live Chat or email If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 for help.

Service Specific Resources

Additional Resources

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