The transition from military service to civilian life often brings countless challenges that affect the mental health and well-being of veterans. For some, alcohol becomes a coping mechanism used to navigate the complexities of post-service life. 

If you’re curious about the underlying reasons why veterans often turn to alcohol, we invite you to join us. We will unpack the complex relationship between veterans and alcohol and present a compassionate and effective approach to addressing their needs.

How Many Veterans Misuse Alcohol?

Imagine a soldier returning home after serving their country, carrying the weight of their experiences and scars that may not be visible to the naked eye. As many try to transition back to civilian life, they look for solace in alcohol, seeking refuge from the memories that haunt them. 

This is the reality for many veterans grappling with alcohol misuse—a silent battle often fought behind closed doors. Let’s journey into the heart of this struggle, where statistics paint a poignant picture of how alcohol affects those who have sacrificed so much for our country:

  • Military members spend more days per year consuming alcohol than people in any other industry.
  • Binge drinking—characterized by consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short time—is a common issue among veterans. In fact, nearly 23% of veterans report binge drinking in the last month.
  • Alcohol serves as the primary substance for 65% of veterans entering treatment centers, nearly twice the rate observed among civilians.
  • Twenty-five thousand veterans aged 18-25 reported having an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in 2018.
  • Eight hundred seventy-four thousand veterans aged 26 or older reported having an AUD in the past year.

What Can Cause Veterans to Abuse Alcohol?

From combat wounds to the struggles of dealing with homelessness, there are many reasons why veterans may turn to alcohol. By understanding the following factors, we can gain insight into the struggles faced by veterans and work toward getting them the help they desperately need. 

PTSD and Combat Experiences

The trauma of combat can contribute to the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many veterans turn to alcohol as a way to self-medicate and numb the emotions associated with their wartime experiences.

Pain Management and Health Issues

Veterans may suffer from chronic pain or debilitating health conditions as a result of injuries sustained during their military service. Unfortunately, some veterans use alcohol to alleviate pain, which often leads to addiction.

Social Acceptance

Within the military culture, social gatherings and camaraderie frequently revolve around alcohol. As such, veterans may feel pressure to conform to these norms and use alcohol as a means of fitting in or bonding with peers, especially during social events.

Depression and Anxiety

The transition from military to civilian life can be a challenging experience for many veterans, leading to feelings of alienation. Alcohol may provide a temporary escape from these emotions, albeit at the cost of worsening mental health issues.

Sexual Trauma

Whether sexual trauma occurred before, during, or after military service, coping with the after-effects can be challenging. Unfortunately, some veterans may turn to alcohol as a way to manage pain that stems from the trauma.

Past Trauma from Early Life Experiences

Veterans may have experienced trauma before their military service, such as childhood abuse, neglect, or family dysfunction. These unresolved issues can resurface after military service, contributing to the development of alcohol abuse.

The Stress of Shifting Back into Civilian Life

Reintegrating into civilian life presents numerous challenges, including finding employment, establishing social connections, and adjusting to a new routine. The stress of this transition period is too overwhelming for some veterans, leading to increased alcohol consumption as a way to cope with the uncertainty.

Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are common in veterans who have been exposed to blasts or other combat-related incidents. TBIs can impair cognitive function and emotional regulation, increasing the risk of alcohol abuse.


Unfortunately, homelessness is more common among veterans than in the civilian population. Alcohol abuse can often co-occur with homelessness, as individuals turn to alcohol as a way to cope with the challenges of living on the streets and the trauma of homelessness itself.

The Effects of Alcohol Abuse in Veterans

While alcohol might seem like a temporary escape, its misuse can have profound consequences, especially for those who have served in the military. From impaired judgment to strained connections, the effects of misusing alcohol extend far beyond the surface:

  1. Health Complications: Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to many health issues, including liver disease, cardiovascular problems, and neurological disorders. 
  2. Mental Health Challenges: For veterans who may already be grappling with the psychological toll of their military experiences, alcohol misuse can worsen symptoms and exacerbate mental health challenges.
  3. Relationship Strain: Alcohol misuse is known to strain relationships with family members, friends, and loved ones. This often leads to conflicts, misunderstandings, and feelings of alienation. 
  4. Legal Issues: Engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence of alcohol can lead to legal consequences, including DUIs, public intoxication charges, and other legal infractions. These legal issues will create additional barriers to reintegrating into civilian life.
  5. Employment Challenges: Alcohol misuse negatively impacts employment opportunities, affecting veterans’ ability to secure and maintain stable employment. 
  6. Decreased Quality of Life: Ultimately, alcohol abuse erodes the overall quality of life for veterans, diminishing their sense of purpose and fulfillment. Instead of providing relief, alcohol perpetuates a cycle of hardship, hindering the ability to lead meaningful lives.

Comprehensive Rehab for Veterans at Longbranch Recovery and Wellness

When a veteran is struggling with alcohol abuse, it can be difficult to know where to turn.

At Longbranch Recovery Center in New Orleans, we stand out for our comprehensive residential treatment specifically designed for veterans grappling with alcohol addiction. Our program prioritizes the unique needs of veterans, offering an array of specialized therapies to address not only addiction but also the underlying trauma and PTSD that often accompany it. Therapies such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), trauma therapy, and prolonged exposure therapy (PE) are integral to our approach, aiming to facilitate holistic healing and long-term sobriety.

For veterans seeking extended care beyond residential treatment, we proudly offer the N.O.R.A. House. Standing for “No One Recovers Alone,” the N.O.R.A. House serves as a beacon of ongoing support and community, ensuring that the journey towards recovery doesn’t end upon completion of the initial residential program. It embodies our commitment to healing the whole person—body, mind, spirit, and family—through continued care and support.

Veterans at Longbranch are not just participants in a program; they are valued members of a supportive community dedicated to helping each individual reclaim their life and build a hopeful, sober future. Contact Longbranch Recovery today and begin healing from the roots.

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