(Photo by Holly Mindrup on Unsplash)

By Veronica Raussin

Drug and alcohol addiction is a common problem in the veteran community. This is often made worse by mental health disorders or suicidal ideation. While Memorial Day is the day to honor all those men and women in the U.S. military who made the ultimate sacrifice, we must continue to fight for the veterans who made it home and need help. 

There are any number of causative factors that lead veterans down the path of drug and alcohol addiction. In Maryland there are over 370,000 veterans, many of whom are wartime vets. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 3.9 million veterans have a substance use disorder or mental illness. 

Moreover, substance use disorders significantly increase suicidality among veterans ages 18 and older. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are also common among veterans ages 18 to 49. 

“Early intervention can save lives and prevent overdose, addiction, and suicide. Yet, it can be challenging for families to know where to go or how to find resources,” said Michael Leach of Addicted.org.

Countless veterans who return home struggle to adjust to civilian life. They may experience financial hardships and difficulty finding employment and accessing benefits. Many other veterans struggle with mental and emotional health concerns. 

This can be compounded with physical injuries and chronic pain, leading to prescription opioid use. Untreated trauma, for example, affects all aspects of life and can also lead to addiction. Drugs and alcohol become coping mechanisms. 

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

  • The Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs which provides various supports and information
  • The DAV Department of Maryland is dedicated to helping veterans
  • Helpful hotlines include the Veterans 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 addiction treatment resources.

Families also have a vital role in supporting and helping their loved ones. It’s ok to express concern about their addiction. Speak to them openly and honestly about their drug and alcohol use. Help them find treatment. Be patient and show compassion. Remember, addiction and mental health disorders are treatable. 

Communities and families that come together make a real significant impact on the lives of veterans. It’s never too late to offer a helping hand. Too many veterans lose this battle, but when more people advocate for more support and come together, more lives are saved.

Veronica Raussin is a Community Outreach Coordinator for Addicted.org, passionate about spreading awareness of the risks and dangers of alcohol and drug use.

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