Alcohol and Drug Misuse
Alcohol and drug misuse can lead to serious health, relationship, employment, and legal problems. Problematic alcohol or drug use can also lead to substance use disorders (SUD). Symptoms of SUD include tolerance, the ability to drink or use greater quantities over time, inability to stop drinking or using in spite of negative consequences, and withdrawal, feeling sick when trying to quit drinking or using drugs. Problems with drinking or drug use may occur in response to stress, or in combination with posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, or other medical conditions. Fortunately there are proven methods to help Veterans recover from alcohol or drug misuse, including mutual help groups and other effective treatments.
VHA has many resources to help Veterans and their loved ones answer questions, find support, get treatment, and recover. Please click on the tabs above to find information on some of these resources.
You may be wondering if you have symptoms of a substance use disorder. One way of determining that is to take a brief confidential assessment. Only you will see the results of this brief screen. None of the results are stored or sent anywhere. You can choose to print a copy of the results for your own records or to give to your physician or a mental health professional.
VA Programs & Services
Misuse of substances such as alcohol, drugs, or tobacco, can lead to increased risk of injuries, accidents, or physical and mental health problems. Although change is difficult, you do not have to do it alone.
VA SUD Program Locator: The program locator will help you find local VA Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Treatment Programs.
Effective treatments for substance use problems are available at the VA. Available treatments address all types of problems related to substance use, from unhealthy use to life-threatening addictions. The Summary of VA Treatment Programs for Substance Use Problems page provides you with information on the treatment programs the VA uses.
Smoking and Tobacco Use Cessation: The VA’s Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards site provides information on quitting, preventing, and treating smoking and tobacco use for Veterans, their families and health professionals.
MakeTheConnection.net: Visit this site to view hundreds of stories from Veterans of all service eras who have addressed their substance use and overcome mental health challenges. MakeTheConnection.net is a one-stop resource where Veterans and their families and friends can privately explore information on mental health issues, hear fellow Veterans and their families share their stories of resilience, and easily find and access the support and resources they need.
Watch video testimonials from MakeTheConnection Veterans who have found effective solutions to dealing with alcohol and drug problems, and to learn more about their experiences finding treatment and recovery.
Opioid Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution (OEND): In an effort to prevent opioid overdose mortality, the VA developed a national OEND program to train patients on how to prevent, recognize, and respond to an opioid overdose. Below are 5 brief videos that show clinicians discussing OEND with patients and training them on the different VA national naloxone kits.
- Video: Introduction to Naloxone for People with Opioid Use Disorders
- Video: Introduction to Naloxone for People Taking Prescribed Opioids
- Video: How to Use the VA Auto-Injector Naloxone Kit
- Video: How to Use the VA Intranasal Naloxone Kit
- Video: How to Use the VA Intramuscular Naloxone Kit
Evidence-based psychotherapy or “talk therapy” is effective for treating SUDs. Each VA medical center offers one or more specific talk therapies as well as effective medications for the treatment of SUDs. Many medical centers and clinics provide other clinical services for SUD (in addition to those listed below). or “talk therapy” is effective for treating SUDs. Each VA medical center offers one or more specific talk therapies as well as effective medications for the treatment of SUDs. Many medical centers and clinics provide other clinical services for SUD (in addition to those listed below).
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Substance Use Disorders (CBT-SUD)
- CBT-SUD is an evidence-based (meaning backed by research) talk therapy that teaches Veterans how to reduce their substance use to improve their quality of life. A Veteran usually will meet with a therapist once a week for about 12 weeks. The treatment helps Veterans to have more balanced and helpful thoughts about themselves, others and the future. CBT-SUD helps Veterans learn a problem-solving approach to deal with substance use and to achieve personal goals.
- I am interested in learning more about CBT-SUD
- Motivational Interviewing (MI) and Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)
- Motivational Interviewing (MI) is an evidence-based (meaning backed by research), treatment used to draw out and strengthen one’s motivation for change. The MI approach is a conversation between you and your provider about the reasons you might want to make a change and the potential benefits of such change. Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) is a more targeted, structured version of MI that involves a brief assessment and helps Veterans work on changing their alcohol and/or substance use.
- MET is particularly helpful when Veterans are first considering making changes or when Veterans are unsure about the extent of their problems with alcohol and drug misuse. If you or someone you care about is using alcohol or substances at an unsafe level and are unsure about what treatment options (if any) to pursue, MET might be a good first step.
- I am interested in learning more about MI and MET
Articles & Fact Sheets
- The Drinker’s Check-Up Article: This is an anonymous, self-guided online tool that allows you to develop a better understanding of your drinking, including any risks that it might pose to your health.
- Alcohol Screening & Counseling: Alcohol use does not necessarily mean having an alcohol use disorder. The VA uses tested screening and counseling programs to help Veterans avoid the costly transition from drinking too much to developing alcohol use disorder.
Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help: From NIAAA provides information for patients covering the latest research-based treatments and what to consider when choosing among them.
The Rethinking Drinking web site offers valuable research-based information on drinking habits and how they may affect your health, along with support for making a change.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Provides information that will help you better understand the health consequences of alcohol abuse and dependence (alcoholism).
MedlinePlus: Provides information to help answer health questions by bringing together information from the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other government agencies and health-related organizations.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Finds fact sheets, videos, brochures and more within their publications section.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Features information on drug abuse, drug-related legislation, and more.
National Alcohol & Drug Addiction Recovery Month: Provides resources throughout the year that help promote the societal benefits of alcohol and drug use disorder treatment.
The Substance Use and Co-Occurring Disorders Among Military and Veterans article contains information on substance use disorders, co-occurring disorders, treatment, and stigmatization.
The Recovery and the Military: Treating Veterans and Their Families webcast examines treatment availability and alcohol and drug addiction treatment options available for veterans and their families.
Mutual Help Organizations
Narcotics Anonymous (NA): An international, community-based association of recovering drug addicts with more than 28,000 weekly meetings in 113 countries.
Smart Recovery: An international program that aims to help people with recovery from all types of substances and addictive behaviors including alcohol, different drugs, gambling, prescription drugs and others. SMART Recovery sponsors face-to-face meetings around the world, and daily online meetings.
Support for Family and Friends
Al-Anon/Alateen: Offers support and resources for friends and family of problem drinkers.
Nar-Anon Family Groups: Offers support and resources for friends and family of someone with an addiction problem.