Alcohol misuse and addiction

Persistent substance abuse or addiction can negatively impact your physical and mental health, your relationships, family life, work, and your finances.

Addiction or substance misuse can be a way of blocking out difficult issues. For veterans, addiction can be used to cope with and mask mental health problems, such as PTSD, anxiety or depression. Other problems, such as unemployment, poverty, stress and emotional pressure can also be triggers for addiction.

It can be difficult to realise that you have a problem. But admitting it and talking to someone else can be a positive first step towards treatment.

Find out more about the causes and signs of veteran alcohol misuse and drug addiction via the Veterans Gateway.

Alcohol misuse

Alcohol misuse is when you drink in a way that’s harmful, or when you’re dependent on alcohol.

You could be misusing alcohol if:

  • you think you should cut down on your drinking
  • others have criticised your drinking
  • you feel guilty or bad about your drinking
  • you need a drink first thing in the morning – this might be to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover

Someone you know may be misusing alcohol if:

  • they regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week – 1 unit is half a pint of low to normal strength lager, or a single shot (25ml) of spirit. Find out more about alcohol units
  • they sometimes can’t remember what happened the night before because of their drinking
  • they fail to do something as a result of their drinking – for example, missing an appointment or work because they’re drunk or hungover

Find out more about alcohol misuse via the NHS website.


Addiction is commonly associated with drugs and gambling, although it is possible to be addicted to almost anything.

Addiction is a known mental health diagnosis. You are entitled to treatment for any addiction. There are a lot of complicated reasons as to why individuals can become dependant on something.


Signs you could be addicted, or becoming addicted, to drugs according to FRANK:

  • you take the drug very regularly
  • you take it despite trying to cut down or stop
  • you lie about how much you take or take it in secret
  • you keep taking it despite the harm it is causing
  • you take drugs alone
  • you do extreme things to get the drug – such as stealing, getting into debt or faking symptoms to get prescription drugs
  • you do less of the things you enjoy, because the drugs or alcohol are getting in the way

Find out more about drug addiction via the NHS website


Being a compulsive gambler can harm your relationships and leave you in serious debt.

To help you identify whether you may be a problem gambler, the NHS has created this questionnaire.

Below are some self-care tips if you have a problem with gambling:


  • pay important bills such as your mortgage or rent on payday before you do any gambling
  • spend more time with friends and family who do not gamble
  • deal with your debts rather than ignoring them. For debt advice you can visit GamCare or the National Debt Line. You can also contact your bank to block any transactions with betting companies


  • see gambling as a way to make money – try to see it as entertainment, like watching a TV show or listening to music
  • bottle up your worries about your gambling and/or debt – talk to someone
  • take credit cards with you if you gamble in person

If you think you have a problem with gambling, there is support and treatment available to help you. Evidence shows that gambling can be successfully treated in the same way as other addictions. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a treatment that often has positive results.

You can find more information and support via the NHS website and via GamCare.

Where to get help for alcohol misuse and addiction

The services available depend upon your location. Find out about your local services:

  • Contact your GP. Be open and honest with them about your addiction so they can provide you with the right support. If you do not have GP, find out how to register
  • Turning Point provide a range of services and support for drug and alcohol misuse
  • Change Grow Live (CGL) provide a wealth of advice and information about drug and alcohol misuse, as well as support services across England, Scotland and Wales
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) hold meetings across England, Scotland, Wales and English-speaking meetings in continental Europe, for alcoholics with a desire to stop drinking. The meetings aim to help alcoholics recover and continue sobriety.
    Free helpline: 0800 917 7650
    Email: [email protected]
  • Narcotics Anonymous hold free meetings across the UK for anyone with a drug problem. Its members support each other to achieve a drug free life and to stay drug free.
    Free helpline: 0300 999 1212 (open 10am to midnight everyday)
  • DrinkLine is a free, confidential helpline for anyone who is concerned about their drinking, or someone else’s.
    Free helpline: 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am–8pm, weekends 11am–4pm)
    If you are in Scotland, you can also contact Drinkline Scotland on 0800 7314 314.
  • We Are With You provide online help and advice for drinking or drug use.
  • GamCare offers free information, support and counselling for problem gamblers in the UK.
    Free helpline: 0808 8020 133 (available 24/7)