People in the military use and
abuse drugs and alcohol for the same reasons that
other people do: Drugs and alcohol can make you feel good. But the military
lifestyle also may include other issues that can affect alcohol and drug abuse,
The stress of being in armed conflict or knowing that you may be involved in
The stress of being
separated from your spouse and family.
Long periods of boredom on a
base or in a war setting.
A history of accepted alcohol use.
People in the military use the same drugs as people who are not in
the armed services. These drugs include alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, inhalants,
and methamphetamine. The rate of binge drinking, which is having 5 or more
drinks at one time at least once a month, is high. About 47%, or nearly
one-half, of those in the military binge drink.1 This
is similar to how much college students in the United States binge
Why is drug and alcohol abuse a concern?
Drug and alcohol abuse is a concern in the military for the same
reasons it's a concern in the civilian population. It can harm judgment,
decision-making, problem-solving, learning, and memory. It can lead to health
problems and harm you and your loved ones. It can result in legal and money
In the military, substance abuse also may:
Interfere with military
readiness. The personal and family problems that substance abuse can cause also
may make you less ready to meet your military duties.
well you do your job. If you are high or hung over on the job, you cannot
function as well and you may be a danger to your unit and others.
Make it harder to maintain military discipline.
Substance abuse also affects everyone in your unit. Your supervisor
and others may be taken away from other duties to help you. Others may have to
cover for you, which can detract from their military readiness.
Your behavior can make a difference in how well your unit deals
with readiness, logistics, and training. Substance abuse can put your life and
others' lives at risk.
Treatment of drug and alcohol problems
Treatment for alcohol or drug abuse in the military is the same as
for other adults.
Detoxification, medicine, counseling, therapy, and
12-step programs all may be used.
All branches of the military have substance abuse programs. They
provide drug information, treatment, testing, and prevention. Active-duty
members of the military may enter a program in five ways:
You can ask for help with substance abuse if
you think you have a problem.
Your commanding officer refers you
for evaluation if he or she is aware of or suspects a problem.
have a positive drug or alcohol test.
A doctor or other health
professional refers you for evaluation if he or she feels you may have a
substance abuse problem.
You get in trouble with the law, and
substance abuse is part of the reason.
Veterans and substance abuse
Veterans also may struggle with substance abuse. They may have
started using drugs or alcohol in the service or developed a problem later in
life. Substance abuse problems in veterans also may be linked with conditions
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Veterans Administration can help you. Contact your local
RTI International (2009). 2008 Department of Defense Survey of Health-Related Behaviors Among Active Duty Military Personnel. Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI International.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.