Some service members and civilians describe “self-medicating” with alcohol in an effort to feel better. Some may use it to cope with stress or may think it is helpful for unwinding after a long day. Either way, alcohol can become harmful when overused.
Alcohol & Substances
Military life is tough. Deployments, trainings, injuries and even stress at home can all take a toll on your mind and body. This causes some service members to turn to alcohol or other substances to “self-medicate.”
Using substances may feel like a temporary escape. But they can threaten your career, personal relationships and health. In fact, substance abuse can cause or worsen physical or psychological health concerns.
It is important to remember that substance abuse can be related to alcohol, prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, illegal drugs, or even tobacco. If you think you or someone you know needs help, talk to a health care provider right away. The following resources can help you learn more and connect with care.
Did you stay up too late watching television again? Drink one too many alcoholic drinks during a night out with friends? While these events might seem harmless, they can become an issue if they start to happen daily or regularly. Alcohol use not only comes with its own health risks, but also negatively affects your sleep quality and the amount you sleep. Excessive drinking and sleeplessness can also have long-term effects on your personal relationships, job performance, and physical and mental health.
If you’re dealing with physical pain, know you aren’t alone. Military life can be hard on your body. In fact, about half of service members who deployed as part of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have a pain diagnosis. Nearly 30 percent report chronic pain.
Reaching out for care for your psychological health is an important, positive step in your military career. When seeking a role that requires a national security clearance, you will be instructed to fill out the Standard Form 86 (SF86), “Questionnaire for National Security Positions.” [PDF 7.6MB] The federal government uses information from this form to conduct background checks and evaluate individuals who are:
Military life can be rough on your mind and body. Deployments, training, separation from family and injuries are just a few common stressors. These can lead to physical and psychological health concerns that service members may struggle to cope with.
Some service members turn to substance misuse in an effort to feel better. Substance misuse could include:
Studies have shown a link between stressful life events and substance misuse in the military. Service members frequently experience stress due to situations like training, combat or multiple deployments. Service members who have experienced these events may turn to substances to help them find relief.