Addiction in the Armed Forces: Getting Help

Unfortunately, drug and alcohol abuse disproportionately affects members or ex-members of the Armed Forces. This is generally true for all ranks and professions within the Armed Forces, although those who have undertaken combat duties are particularly at risk.

Over the last decade, the Armed Forces have improved access to addiction treatment for both members and ex-members, although the situation is far from perfect.

For instance, many current members of the Armed Forces may be afraid to seek out treatment for drug or alcohol addiction through fear of being punished.

This fear is often well-founded because members of the Armed Forces who fail a drug test are often routinely expelled from their duties. This expulsion is often automatic, permanent and without any right to appeal the decision.

There are many reasons why people in the Armed Services develop and addiction to drugs and alcohol. One of these reasons is due to the drinking culture that exists within the Forces.

The Forces often radiate a macho image, and many people feel pressured to live up to this image by abusing alcohol or drugs. This drinking culture may be encouraged by the highest echelons of the Forces. For instance, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the infamous ‘rum rations’ was abolished in the Royal Navy.

An impossible situation

If you are a current member of the Armed Forces, it’s likely that you are reluctant to reach out for help because you fear your addiction will result in your dismissal from the Forces. If you are a user of illegal drugs, this fear is undoubtedly well-founded. This is because the use of illegal drugs is not tolerated in the Forces. In fact, the Forces carry out random drug tests to try to catch ‘users’ and then apply disciplinary action for those who have been identified as drug users.

This state-of-affairs means many in the Forces who suffer from drug addiction feel isolated. They feel trapped in their addiction. They do not feel they are able to seek out help because they will face punishment for doing so. This means these people continue to use drugs or alcohol until they eventually ‘get caught’ and then punished for their illness.

Another form of addiction that’s rife amongst members and ex-members of the Armed Forces is prescription drug addiction. Members of the armed forces may begin to take opiates in order to treat injuries caused by combat duties or intensive training.

Members of the Armed Forces may also take hypnotics or benzodiazepines to treat psychiatric distress caused by traumatic incidents they have been exposed to during combat duties. This includes treating conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Getting help

To assist members and ex-members of the Armed Forces find a solution to their addiction, Rehab Recovery has set up a highly confidential helpline. You can contact the team on 0800 088 66 86 to benefit from this helpline.

When you contact us, we carry out a short telephone assessment. In the past, we’ve helped thousands of members of the armed services in finding a long term solution to drug or alcohol addiction, and we are confident we can help you too.

The majority of armed forces members will benefit from attending a residential rehabilitation unit. This treatment is then followed up with outpatient therapy. During the residential treatment programme, you will be detoxed.

This is then followed up with an intensive psychotherapeutic programme designed to address the underlying emotional causes of addiction.

Further resources

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ADT Healthcare Ltd
20-22 Wenlock Road
N1 7GU


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