Addiction in LGBTQ+ Veterans
Sadly, veterans are more likely to have addiction problems than the general population. Factors linked to military service such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from combat can cause veterans to turn to alcohol and drugs.
More than 20% of veterans with PTSD also have a substance use disorder, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The VA also reports that LGBTQ+ veterans have a high risk of stress. People in the LGBTQ+ community often face discrimination, harassment, and even violence. These and other stressors often lead to substance abuse.
“It takes the strength and courage of a warrior to ask for help.”
– U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
If you’re a veteran in crisis, get help right now from the Veterans Crisis Line by dialing 988 and then pressing 1, or by using the chat option. Free, confidential help is available 24/7. You do not need to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care.
You can also call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room or VA medical center.
Health Care and Addiction Treatment for Veterans
The VA offers a range of services for veterans looking for help with substance abuse problems. This includes medications, counseling, and treatment for PTSD and other mental health conditions that are sometimes related to addiction.
“Research has shown that behavioral therapy in combination with medication … is the most effective treatment for opioid use disorder.”
– U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Services for Addiction in Veterans
Veterans with drug addiction may benefit from one or more of these VA treatment options:
- Medications: Drug substitution therapies and medicines can help reduce cravings, prevent relapse, and allow people to stop substance use in a safe manner. For example, doctors sometimes prescribe methadone or buprenorphine to help people addicted to dangerous drugs called opioids. They may prescribe acamprosate, disulfiram, or naltrexone for alcohol use disorder.
- Therapy: Outpatient counseling, residential care, and self-help groups can be beneficial to veterans battling addiction.
- Treatment for related conditions: PTSD and depression are often related to substance abuse. By treating those mental health conditions, veterans may be more successful at beating their addictions.
How Do I Access LGBTQ+ Veterans Addiction Help Through the VA?
To access VA services for substance abuse, you must have VA health care. If you don’t have VA health care, you can apply for it here.
LGBTQ+ veterans can talk to their VA primary care provider about their substance abuse. The provider can offer treatment and support and screen veterans for related issues like depression or PTSD.
Tip: LGBTQ+ veterans can get help from their LGBTQ+ Veteran Care Coordinator (VCC). Every VA health care system has an LGBTQ+ VCC who advocates for quality care provided in an inclusive environment.
Veterans who don’t have a VA primary care provider or haven’t been seen in a VA clinic can call the VA’s general information line for help at 800-827-1000 or contact their local VA medical center. Click here to find a VA medical center near you.
LGBT veterans who do not have VA health care benefits may still qualify for veterans addiction services. For example, veterans who have served in a combat zone are eligible for free private counseling and other services at a VA medical center.
Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless can also call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-424-3838 for help with addiction.
For more information, download the agency’s Guide to VA Mental Health Services for Veterans & Families.
How Do I Find a Veterans Addiction Treatment Center Near Me?
Some VA medical centers have a specific Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Program. Additionally, many Veterans Centers and VA Community Based Outpatient Clinics also offer addiction treatment services.
You can use the VA’s Substance Use Disorder Program locator to find a program in your state or territory.
You can also find treatment outside of the VA health care system at FindTreatment.gov. This website, which was created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, allows users to search for substance abuse facilities, opioid treatment providers, and more.
Additionally, some private recovery facilities have programs specifically for veterans or people who identify as LGBTQ+.
Other Addiction Help for Veterans Who Are LGBTQ+
Many other resources are available for LGBTQ+ veterans struggling with addiction.
Additional LGBTQ+ veterans addiction resources include: Many people battling addiction find self-help groups — either alone or in tandem with treatment — to be beneficial. Both Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are 12-step groups that help people with drug and alcohol problems. They meet in person or online. You can search for local meetings on the AA or NA websites. There are some AA and NA meetings specifically for veterans, active service members, and first responders. Similarly, there are meetings for the LGBTQ+ community. GaL-AA (Gays and Lesbians in Alcoholics Anonymous) serves the LGBTQ+ members of AA.
Self-Help Groups for LBGTQ+ Veterans and Addiction
Additional LGBTQ+ veterans addiction resources include:
Many people battling addiction find self-help groups — either alone or in tandem with treatment — to be beneficial.
Both Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are 12-step groups that help people with drug and alcohol problems. They meet in person or online. You can search for local meetings on the AA or NA websites.
There are some AA and NA meetings specifically for veterans, active service members, and first responders.
Similarly, there are meetings for the LGBTQ+ community. GaL-AA (Gays and Lesbians in Alcoholics Anonymous) serves the LGBTQ+ members of AA.