There are many underlying reasons why substance abuse in veterans is so prevalent. Service members have been through traumatic experiences that have left physical and/or psychological scars. Individuals with problematic symptoms of mental or physical disorders may attempt to self-medicate to help cope with these problems. Many studies have shown the co-morbidity between substance use, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicide in veterans. According to (McCance-Katz, 2020),  “In 2018, 3.7 million veterans had a mental and/or substance use disorder.” 5.3% of veterans struggle with substance use disorders, 14.4% struggle with a serious mental illness, and 2.2% endure both a serious mental illness and substance use disorder. 

  • 1 in 4 veterans struggle with illicit drugs.
  •  4 in 5 struggle with alcohol use.
  • 1 in 13 struggle with both drugs and alcohol. 
  • 1 in 4 have serious mental illness. 

There is a strong correlation between substance use and increased risk of suicide amongst veterans. They have served for us, and now it is time we do our part for them. 

Exercise has advantageous impacts on mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Evidence has shown that aerobic exercise may reduce PTSD symptoms and can be used as a form of treatment.      

According to (Rosenbaum et al., 2015), A randomized study conducted in a veteran population explored the impact of a 12 week aerobic exercise program (at least three, 1 hour sessions per week of moderate-intensity aerobic and anaerobic exercise), on self-reported symptoms of PTSD. Results revealed that participants who completed the exercise program reported greater reduction in PTSD symptom severity compared to those who did not. Additional findings from the same group suggest that the exercise program was also associated with increased self-reported mindfulness and interoceptive awareness.

This study provides the first evidence that an exercise intervention is associated with reduced PTSD and depressive symptoms, reduced waist circumference, and improved sleep quality.

Who Can You Call?

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs-  1-800-273-8255 

Calls are answered by a live agent 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The hotline is staffed by more than 60 agents who have had extensive training on VA programs and services.

The Veterans Crisis Line- 1-800-273-8255 

Connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. 

SAMHSA National Helpline- 1-800-662-4357 

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

McCance-Katz, E., 2020. 2018 National Survey On Drug Use And Health: Veterans. [online] Available at: <>

Rosenbaum, S., Sherrington, C., & Tiedemann, A. (2015). Exercise augmentation compared with usual care for post-traumatic stress disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Acta psychiatrica Scandinavica, 131(5), 350–359.