Suicide and Substance Use Disorders Among Veterans


Veterans Day is a time to acknowledge the service of the brave men and women who served in our country and overseas. We cannot thank such individuals enough for their bravery. During Veterans Day 2020, we would also like to draw your attention to some startling statistics.

Hopefully, you are aware that veterans are some of the most vulnerable Americans. Those who have served in combat are at a significant risk of struggling with behavioral and mental health disorders. Many turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with life; some struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety.

About one in 10 veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seen in a Veterans Administration (VA) hospital have a problem with alcohol or other drugs, according to the National Center for PTSD. More than two of 10 veterans with PTSD also have a substance use disorder (SUD), according to the National Center for PTSD.

Almost one out of every three veterans seeking treatment for SUD also has PTSD. A new report from the VA reveals that nearly 20 veterans a day commit suicide. Those who take their own life are often struggling with mental illness. Many have been diagnosed with mental health conditions at the time of their death.

Suicide and Substance Use Disorders Among Veterans

The VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention reports that among veterans who died by suicide in 2017, 58.7 percent had a diagnosed a mental health or substance use disorder in 2016 or 2017.

In 2017, patients with any mental health or substance use disorder diagnosis had a suicide rate of 56.9 per 100,000. Suicide rates were highest among Veteran VHA patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder and those diagnosed with opioid use disorder.

Between 2005 to 2017, suicide among veterans in the 18-34 age group increased 76 percent. In 2019, veterans made up as much as 20 percent of all suicides nationally—about 1.5 times the rates for non-veterans.

Treating Co-Occurring Mental Illness

The prevalence of addiction and co-occurring mental illness is exceptionally high among veterans. However, those who struggle with PTSD and addiction can and do recover. With help, a fulfilling and productive life in recovery is possible.

Men and women who bravely serve in the United States military have options. Those with TRICARE coverage can access current, evidence-based addiction and mental health treatment like that offered at Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat. What’s more, TRICARE coverage extends to both service members and their families.

Serving in the military is stressful for family members too. It can be traumatic worrying about the safety of a loved one. Anxiety, depression, PTSD, and substance abuse are common among the family members of active-duty and retired service members. Please reach out to HVRC if you or a loved one struggles with addiction, mental illness, or dual diagnosis.

Our expert clinical and medical staff creates individualized treatment plans for each client. Please contact us today to speak with our admissions team at 866-273-0868. Each assessment is confidential and can help you determine which course of treatment is best for you or a loved one. TRICARE covers a long list of programs and services, including our track for military families.