Alcohol and Substance Misuse

Last Updated: December 20, 2023
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​​​​​​​A Substance Uuse Ddisorder (SUD) includes the misuse of alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, cocaine, hallucinogens, opioids, sedatives, or stimulants. Substance use disorders occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home. ​

Within a military setting, a SUD can impact a service members’ readiness and resilience and may have negative effects on family, friends, and the military community. 

The Health of the Force reports provides data to identify conditions that influence the health and medical readiness of the Force, to include the most current substance use metrics across the Active Duty component and the Army National Guard. Findings include-

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, continues to be the predominant illicit drug detected through urinalysis among the Army National Guard population accounting for 90% of all illicit-drug positive results. Even though some states have legalized THC, this drug is still not authorized for service members to use or for anyone to have on federal property. 

Alcohol was the most commonly documented substance for abuse and dependence among Active Duty Soldiers, in a public health study of data from 2016-2019, among Reserve/National Guard Soldiers alcohol misuse was found to be influenced by your social circles.

  • ​​Drinking buddies and heavy-drinkers in an individual’s social circle are risk factors for Reserve/National Guard Soldiers’ problems with alcohol use.
  • Frequent drinking with people in an individual’s social circle is a risk factor for [Reserve/National Guard] Soldiers’ problems with alcohol use.
  • Having a social circle that includes military peers may be protective against alcohol use problems among Reserve/National Guard Soldiers who have deployed.
  • ​A history of military sexual trauma may increase risk for greater overall alcohol consumption, more frequent heavy drinking, and alcohol use problems, as noted among male Reserve/National Guard Soldiers. 
  • Alcohol and drug overdoses were the most common method of suicide attempts among Army service members. 
    • Individuals who are regularly prescribed opioid and psychoactive medications may be at increased risk for misuse, abuse and overdose. 
    • Comorbidities may occur between SUDs, other BH conditions, and physical injuries. 

​​​​​Research is being conducted to better understand public health interventions high-risk populations based on demographic and military characteristics.
  • The Army continues to adapt prevention and treatment efforts to the unique characteristics of military life and culture. For example, social and environmental factors related to alcohol consumption, to include considering the number of drinks, the number of friends present and location of alcohol use (off-premise–home, outdoors; on-premise–bars, restaurants) and the impact on drinking outcomes.​

Prevention focuses on leading a healthy lifestyle and encourages avoiding or stopping risky behavior. 

At the national level, Red Ribbon Week takes place each year from October 23 through 31st, and is the nation’s largest and longest-running drug-use prevention campaign. Click hereExternal Link to​ ​read how one Army community used Red Ribbon WeekExternal Link to highlight an individual and community commitment to be drug free. Use the Community Resource Guide to contact your local Army Substance Abuse Program for more information.

If you or someone you know needs help:

  • Contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 and press 1 for the Military Crisis Line 
  • Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), press 1 or Text 838255​

​News Articles

  • Drugs and AlcoholExternal Link​​: Military Psychologist Talks Facts, Prevention of Substance, Alcohol Misuse among Service Members ​

Alcohol and Substance Use Resources

  • Own Your LimitsExternal Link​ is a Defense Department (DOD) education campaign whose mission is to help Service members learn to drink responsibly, if they choose to drink alcohol.
  • Too Much To LoseExternal Link​ is a Defense Department (DOD) education campaign whose mission of the campaign is to inform Service members on the facts and risks related to prescription drug misuse and illicit and prohibited drug use that can impact their health, career and overall well-being.
  • You Can Quit2External Link​ is a Defense Department (DOD) education campaign whose mission is to help Service members quit tobacco—for themselves and their loved ones.