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Almost 25% (almost 4.7 million) of veterans live in rural areas. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that half of returning veterans who are need of mental health treatment actually seek it, and rural veterans were 70% less likely to receive any mental health treatment services when compared to urban veterans. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has led various efforts to address mental health and substance use disorders in rural areas, including telehealth and intensive case management resources.

Substance use disorder frequently co-occurs with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Individuals may try to cope with the symptoms of PTSD by using drugs or alcohol. More than one quarter of veterans with PTSD also have substance use disorders, and evidence shows that people generally report improved symptoms when both conditions are addressed in treatment.

There is some evidence that veterans may resist seeking treatment for mental health issues, so outreach efforts should be aware of the stigma issues related to substance use disorders. Promising practices and outreach may involve community groups or include peer support.

Resources to Learn More

Make the Connection
A collection of online resources designed specifically for veterans and their families to help identify the signs of drug problems and seek treatment options. Resources include videos, information and resource locator, treatment and recovery locator, self-help materials, and self-assessments.
Organization(s): U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Program Locator
Allows users to search for VA Medical Centers with substance use disorder programs by program type or by location.
Organization(s): U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs