The CBHSQ Report header
National Survey on Drug Use and Health
Spotlight
May 07, 2015
1 in 15 Veterans Had a Substance Use Disorder in the Past Year
This artwork depicts the United States, counties, and small areas used in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Substance use disorder among veterans aged 17 or older, by era of service: 2013

This bar graph shows substance use disorder among veterans aged 17 or older, by era of service, in 2013. In 2013, 12.7 percent of veterans who served in September 2001 or later had a substance use disorder. In 2013, 6.6 percent of veterans who served from August 1990 to August 2001 (including the Persian Gulf War) had a substance use disorder. In 2013, 7.7 percent of veterans who served from May 1975 to July 1990 had a substance use disorder. In 2013, 4.7 percent of veterans who served from August 1964 to April 1975 (Vietnam era) had a substance use disorder. In 2013, 3.7 percent of veterans who served in July 1964 or earlier (pre-Vietnam era) had a substance use disorder. If you would like someone from our staff to read the numbers on this graph or table image to you, please call 240-276-1250.

Every year, thousands of troops leave active duty service and become military veterans within their communities. The demands of military service, including the trauma of combat, may contribute to substance use among veterans.1 According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 1.5 million veterans aged 17 or older (6.6 percent of this population) had a substance use disorder in the past year.2 Overall, about 1 in 15 veterans had a past year substance use disorder, whereas the national average among persons aged 17 or older was about 1 in 11, or 8.6 percent.3 The rate of substance use disorders among veterans ranged from 3.7 percent among pre-Vietnam-era veterans to 12.7 percent among those who served in the military since September 2001.4 To help our nation’s veterans overcome substance use disorder, service providers working with veterans can access information and resources from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at http://www.samhsa.gov/veterans-military-families.

  1. Golub, A., Vazan, P., Bennett, A. S., & Liberty, H. J. (2013). Unmet need for treatment of substance use disorders and serious psychological distress among veterans: A nationwide analysis using the NSDUH. Military Medicine, 178(1), 107–114.
  2. Substance use disorders occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically significant impairment based on criteria specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition. See American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-IV) (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
  3. Comparisons of the rate among veterans with the national average should be made with caution because the veteran population differs demographically from the national average in ways that could affect rates of substance use disorder.
  4. Respondents could indicate multiple eras of service; thus, the eras of service categories are not mutually exclusive.