Substance Abuse Treatment for Marines and Veterans

The stresses and culture of military service may put Marines at risk of substance abuse and addiction. Fortunately, there is hope. In addition to programs offered by the U.S. Marine Corps for active-duty Marines, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers treatment options for Veterans through its own programming and other community partners. If you’re struggling, there are a multitude of ways to get help.

Marines’ Substance Abuse

Man holding alcoholic drink

Drug and alcohol abuse is a serious and costly issue for the U.S. Marine Corps. In just 10 years from 2009 to 2019, more than 11,700 Marines were discharged for drug and alcohol-related issues, costing the Marines Corps more than $1 billion.1 A large portion of new Marines also require drug waivers prior to being enlisted.1

Alcohol use disorders are the most prevalent type of substance use disorders among military service members.2 Problematic drinking may begin or escalate during service. A 2015 survey found that approximately 30% engage in binge drinking, which involves drinking 5 or more drinks in one episode for men, or 4 or more drinks in one sitting for women.3

Compared to other branches of the military, binge drinking, heavy drinking (engaging in binge drinking at least 5 days in a month), and hazardous drinking (alcohol use that meets criteria for an alcohol use disorder) were all highest in the Marine Corps.3 In the same survey, more than two-thirds of active-duty service members felt that the military culture supported drinking.3 Marines who feel that alcohol is easy to access and affordable, as well as Marines that feel drinking is part of being in their unit, are more likely to binge drink.4

Prescription drug misuse is also an issue for some service members. The same 2015 survey found that about 4% of military personnel misused prescription drugs.3 Painkillers were the most commonly abused type of medication.3

Risk Factors

Certain factors may put Marines at higher risk of developing substance abuse problems, such as:2,5,6,8

  • Deployment and combat exposure. These experiences, which are often linked to extreme stress and trauma, can increase a person’s risk of developing an addiction.
  • Family history. Service members who come from families experiencing dysfunction, such as parental substance abuse, may be more likely to develop problems themselves.
  • Workplace culture. When drinking is encouraged, easily available, and affordable, military personnel may be more likely to abuse alcohol.
  • Mental health issues. Service members, especially those who have experienced combat exposure, are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These conditions often occur with substance use disorders.
  • Physical injuries. Service members who have been injured during combat are more at-risk of abusing substances. Back and knee-related injuries are the most common cause of limited duty for Marines. Veterans who are injured during service, especially those who also suffer from mental health issues, may be more likely to abuse opioids if prescribed painkillers post-injury.

Signs of Substance Abuse in Veteran Marines

Alcoholic man with drink

Substance abuse is a significant problem among military Veterans.5 Even though the VA has expanded their efforts to address the issue, the number of Vets dealing with substance abuse problems continues to increase.5 For some Veterans, substance use that starts during service can continue or worsen after service ends. Vets who experienced deployment, combat, and difficulty readjusting to civilian life are at an increased risk of developing substance abuse problems.5

Signs that a Veteran may be dealing with a substance abuse problem include:7

  • Difficulty controlling drug or alcohol use.
  • Failed attempts in the past to stop or cut back.
  • Using substances in risky situations, like while driving or operating heavy machinery.
  • Failing to keep up with responsibilities at home or work.
  • Using drugs or alcohol despite health problems that are caused or worsened by substance use.

Identifying substance use problems is important because they are linked to medical and mental health issues, relationship and job-related problems, and suicide attempts.5 Fortunately, there are services available for active-duty and Veteran Marines.

Marine Substance Abuse Resources

There are several resources Marines and family members can utilize for help with issues such as drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness, grief and loss, or relationship problems.

Marine Corps Substance Abuse Program

The Substance Abuse Program provides evidenced-based treatment for active-duty Marines dealing with drug or alcohol addictions.9 The program is offered on every U.S. Marine Corps base. It offers prevention, education, counseling, case management, and referrals to local treatment services. Marines are assessed for a range of issues, including substance use, traumatic brain injury, suicide, and mental illness, and then treated at a level of care specific to their needs.

Marine Corps Community Counseling Program

The Marine Corps Community Counseling Program (CCP) offers short-term counseling, education, training, and care coordination for active-duty Marines and their families.10 Counseling is offered for a variety of different issues, including stress, grief and loss, anger, anxiety, and relationship problems. They also provide referrals for mental health care and can assist in navigating the healthcare system. Each Marine Corps base houses its own Community Counseling Center.

Marine Corps DSTRESS Line

This hotline is available for active-duty Marines, Veterans, and families who need help. Calls are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. This anonymous hotline serves individuals who are dealing with crises, suicidal thoughts, deployment, and financial or relationship problems. You can reach the DSTRESS Line by calling 1-877-476-7734.11

If you or someone you know needs help dealing with suicidal thoughts, help is available 24/7.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.


Veterans can also utilize the Veteran Crisis Line via text 838255 or via online chat with a crisis counselor.

VA Rehab for Veterans

The VA offers evidenced-based substance abuse treatment for Veterans.12 At the VA, Vets have access to a range of treatment options, including: 12

  • Short-term counseling.
  • Intensive outpatient.
  • Residential treatment.
  • Medical detoxification.

Vets can participate in group, individual, and marital therapy, attend self-help groups, and receive medications to control cravings. Substance abuse treatment through the VA also addresses other issues like depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Using the VA to Get Treatment at Desert Hope

Man walking through door to better life

The VA also offers Veterans substance abuse treatment through the community care program.13 Veterans who are eligible for community care can see providers outside of the VA at the same cost as a VA treatment center.13 In order to be eligible for the program, Vets must first receive approval through the VA.14

Desert Hope Treatment Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, is an approved community care provider. Desert Hope offers the Salute to Recovery program specifically for Veterans and first responders. Veterans can access many different levels of care, including medical detox, inpatient residential care, and outpatient treatment. Our customized programming gives Veteran Marines the chance to participate in individual therapy and groups designed just for them. The opportunity to connect and recover alongside other Vets sets Desert Hope apart from other private treatment facilities. Additionally, staff will provide Vets with transportation to and from their doctor’s appointments if needed.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and unsure of where to turn, call us today at . Our Las Vegas drug and alcohol rehab facility is ready to help you get the treatment you need today.

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