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.
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.