Military Life and Substance Use

Active duty mother holding child
Courtesy of DVIDS/Airman Taylor Phifer

Active-duty and retired members of the armed forces can also face substance use problems. More than one in 10 Veterans who seek care at the U.S. Veteran’s Administration meet the criteria to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder—slightly higher than the rate among the general population.1 The stress of training, deployment, returning home and other facets of military life and culture may account for some differences in substance use between military service members and civilians. Those with multiple deployments, combat exposure and combat-related injuries are at greatest risk of developing substance use problems. Zero-tolerance policies, confidentiality concerns and stigma remain barriers to identifying and treating substance use problems in military personnel. NIDA continues to examine the trends in substance use in specific populations, including military personnel, and to search for better methods for preventing and treating substance use disorders that are specific to these populations. Learn more in the DrugFacts: Substance Use and Military Life.

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Research Initiatives

NIDA, other institutes at the National Institutes of Health, and other agencies in the U.S. government fund research on substance use and addiction among active-duty military service members and Veterans. In addition, many clinical trials are open to military personnel and Veterans. For more information, see NIDA’s Clinical Trials page. Learn more about research initiatives involving military service members and Veterans below.


  1. Teeters, J.B., Lancaster, C.L., Brown, D.G., & Back, S.E. (2017). Substance use disorders in military veterans: prevalence and treatment challenges. Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation. 8, 69-77. doi:10.2147/SAR.S116720.

Related Resources

Service members, Veterans and their families may find the following resources helpful: