What is an alcohol or drug problem?
Do you have a problem with drinking or drug use? How can you tell? Many people drink alcohol responsibly or take drugs such as opioid painkillers for medical purposes. To decide if your drinking or drug use is unhealthy or increases risk, it is important to stop and think about how these activities may be affecting your life.
Consider the following signs:
- Does drinking alcohol or taking drugs sometimes interfere with your life at home, at work, or at school?
- Do you sometimes have many drinks in a row, or find it hard to stop drinking or using drugs and wind up taking more than you intended?
- Have your friends or family said they’re worried about your drinking or drug use?
- Are your relationships suffering because of your drinking or drug use?
- Have you gotten into situations while drinking or using drugs where you could have gotten hurt (e.g., driving, swimming, operating machinery, etc.)?
- Have you wanted to cut down or tried to cut down on your drinking or drug use?
- Have you found that you must drink or use drugs more than usual to achieve the same effect they once had? Or that the same number of drinks has less effect than it used to?
- Have you spent a lot of time drinking or using drugs and being sick afterwards?
- Have you given up or cut back on things that are important and interesting to you in order to drink or use drugs?
- Is drinking or using drugs affecting your health or making you feel depressed or anxious?
- Have you ever "blacked out" and not been able to remember what happened while under the influence of alcohol or drugs?
- When the effects of drugs or alcohol were wearing off, have you felt sick, had trouble sleeping, or sensed things that were not real?
“My wife was sympathetic that I was drinking to cope with some of my deployment-related issues but she could only deal with it for so long. I think I made the decision to get help for her as much as I did for myself.”
Without really thinking about it, you may drink or take drugs as a way to try to cope with bad memories or traumatic experiences from your time in the military or with other difficult feelings. Maybe your home situation is less than ideal or you're having a hard time connecting with other people. Do you sometimes use alcohol or drugs to:
- Feel “normal” and accepted?
- Handle difficult issues or emotions in your life?
- Get going in the morning?
- Feel less worried or sad?
- Fall asleep or sleep better?
- Deal with tension?
- Forget your problems?
Although it may seem like drinking or using drugs helps you to cope in the short run, these activities actually can make your problems worse. Using alcohol or drugs to cope might be hurting your health, interfering with work, and damaging your relationships. Taking action to address your substance use and its symptoms may seem unnecessary or possibly overwhelming at first. But for many people, it is a critical step toward happier and healthier relationships and a more fulfilling life.
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What can I do about drinking or drug use?
Quitting or cutting back drinking or taking drugs can be hard. Trying to do this on your own, without any support, can make it even harder. Talking to your family and friends could be a first step. They may be able to provide support and help you find the assistance that’s right for you.
There are many options for Veterans who want to cut down on or stop drinking alcohol or using drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, codeine, Percocet, and other opioid painkillers. It doesn’t matter if you want to stop having one drink a day or if you have a life-threatening addiction — there are resources for you. Support and treatment come in many forms. One option is counseling, either one-on-one with a therapist or in a group. Another involves medication to help you reduce your use of alcohol or drugs. A third option is mutual-help groups with others who are working on similar problems. You can work with your doctor or counselor and try different types of treatment to find the one that’s best for you.
“It helped a lot to know that there were Veterans out there who were in the same place as me. Just listening to their stories and advice turned out to be more helpful and motivating than I could’ve ever imagined.”
In addition, taking an anonymous and confidential self-assessment may help you find out if you need to see a professional about your drinking or drug use. You will be asked a series of questions about your experiences using alcohol and drugs such as opiates throughout your life and in the past three months. Although this set of questions is not designed to tell you whether or not you definitely have an alcohol or drug problem, it can indicate whether it’s a good idea to see a professional for further assessment.
Take the next step to connect with care.
Every day, Veterans from all military service branches and eras connect with proven resources and effective treatments. Here’s how to take the next step: the one that’s right for you.
Read VA's latest coronavirus information. If you have flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, please call before you visit your local medical center or clinic. If you have an appointment, consider making it a telehealth appointment.
New to VA? Apply for health care benefits.
- Getting started is simple. Create a free account online to help ease your enrollment process. To prepare to apply for VA health care in person, by telephone, or by mail, explore VA’s “How to Apply” page.
- Not sure whether you are eligible for VA health care benefits? Read about eligibility for VA health care.
- Unsure of what kind of help you need? Call 1-877-222-VETS (1-877-222-8387) to find the right resources to meet your needs, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. If you have hearing loss, call TTY: 1-800-877-8339.
- Veterans’ family members and caregivers can see whether they qualify for VA medical benefits as a spouse, surviving spouse, dependent child, or caregiver. Explore family and caregiver health benefits.
Already enrolled in VA and interested in mental health support? Schedule a mental health appointment.
- If you’re already enrolled and using VA health care, the fastest way to schedule VA appointments is to call the VA facility where you want to receive care.
- With VA Appointments tools, you can schedule some VA health care appointments online, view details about upcoming appointments, and organize your health care calendar.
- If you’re not using VA medical services, contact your nearest VA medical center or Vet Center to talk about your needs.
What about other options at VA? VA offers a variety of tools and resources.
- The Veteran Training online self-help portal for overcoming everyday challenges includes modules on managing anger, developing parenting and problem-solving skills, and more.
- Mental health apps for Veterans cover a variety of topics, ranging from PTSD to anger management to quitting smoking.
- VA TeleMental Health connects you with a VA mental health provider through a computer or mobile device in your home or at your nearest VA health facility. You can learn more about this option from your local VA medical center.
- Vet Centers are community-based counseling centers across the nation in all 50 states and US territories that provide a wide range of social and psychological services, including professional readjustment counseling to eligible Veterans, Service members – including National Guard and Reserve components – and their families. Counselors and outreach staff, many of whom are Veterans themselves, are experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief and transition after trauma. To learn more, visit the Vet Center website or find a nearest Vet Center. Teams are also available 24/7 by phone at 1-877-927-8387.
What about support beyond VA?
There’s a whole community of support ready to help with whatever you’re going through. Use this tool to find resources near you.