Marine Corps Substance Abuse Program

Marine Corps Substance Abuse Program

Drug and Alcohol Abuse Treatment for the USMC

If there’s one thing that goes against everything the United States Marine Corps stands for – it’s substance abuse. Historically, all branches of the US military have taken a hard stand against any form of illicit drug abuse, alcohol abuse, or other vice involving chemical substances.

However, as time progressed, even the Marine Corps began to understand that substance use disorders are many times products of post-traumatic stress disorder – sometimes directly linked to service in the military. Regardless of whether a link exists, attention and compassion are still required for any substance abuse issue.

Currently, Marine Corps substance abuse problems are met with far more compassion and understanding, giving those with mental health disorders the attention they need during active duty.

If you or someone you love is an active-duty Marine facing a potential substance abuse challenge, combined with possible mental health disorders, this article addresses the Marine Corps substance abuse program options and those offered at South Shores Detox and Recovery.

Keep reading to get helpful resources and ways to find relief for you or your loved one!

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Understanding Substance Abuse and the Marine Corps

Let’s look at the scope of the problem regarding substance abuse and those engaged in active-duty service in the marine corps.

According to records, nearly 12,000 Marines were discharged over drug or alcohol use between 2009 and 2019 – a mere 10 years. This may seem like an insignificant number – until you realize this cost the United States over $1 billion USD.

It seems that alcohol abuse is the most prevalent among all types of substance abuse among active-duty military. Many members already engage in social drinking, which segues into heavier periods of binging during their service time.

Binge Drinking: A Tradition for Marines

In a 2015 survey, it was discovered that an astounding 30% of active-duty Marines admitted to engaging in some type of binging regarding substance misuse – most commonly involving alcohol.

While substance misuse and drinking were problematic among all branches of the military, the Marines demonstrated the highest numbers by far. Many members admitted they felt as if the Marine Corps also promoted a culture of drinking, making the situation far more problematic in the end.

With these types of numbers and the high risk of substance abuse involved with actively enlisted members, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs. The following section outlines the biggest red flags for substance abuse and alcoholism in the Marine Corps.

Warning Signs for Active Duty Service Members

Warning Signs of Addiction

Whether the issue is drug abuse or alcoholism, there are typically physical and mental health indicators that manifest with the presence of substance use disorder. Many times, especially in the case of veterans, alcohol and drug abuse are tied to other mental health disorders that lie at the root of the issue.

If you or someone you know who falls under the category of military personnel is experiencing alcoholism in combination with mental health issues, you may recognize any of the following signs:

  • Engaging in unsatisfactory behavior on or off-base
  • Fighting with other service members during binge drinking sessions
  • Missing important functions or meetings
  • Failure to perform at a high level required by the Marine Corps
  • Drinking on multiple nights throughout the week
  • Drinking to get drunk

Any of these issues can lead to serious problems for military personnel. This is why it’s extremely important to be aware of the mental health of any at-risk service members.

Reach Out for Support Before the Consequences Mount

The worst-case scenario of continued drinking is injury or death. However, other detrimental situations are possible that play a significant role in the life of a service member. Failure to get any service member substance abuse help could result in a dishonorable discharge if unsatisfactory behavior continues to ensue or there is any general misconduct.

Luckily there are plenty of treatment options that exist. It’s highly recommended that members of the Marine Corps opt for local treatment services as opposed to Veterans Affairs, as most specialized locations provide more comprehensive treatment options.

Getting Help Near Camp Pendleton Using TRICARE

Camp Pendleton

Facilities like South Shores Detox and Recovery offer multiple forms of therapy and also work closely with insurance providers like TRICARE delivering treatment to service members nationwide. Our campus is less than forty-five minutes from Camp Pendleton and has helped hundreds of Corps members and their loved ones find a foothold in recovery.

However, after treatment at South Shores Recovery, it may be recommended that the client continues some form of therapy at their local Veterans Affairs for continued recovery efforts.

Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what leads to alcohol or substance misuse. As mentioned earlier, many times, a mental illness is the culprit. Family members and friends should be aware of the potential signs and driving factors, including mental disorders, that could lead to alcoholism and drug use.

24 Hour Drug and Alcohol Detox and Rehab
CALL US AT: 833-213-3869

What Causes Service Members to Lean Toward Drugs and Alcohol?

There are multiple negative consequences involved with drug and alcohol use for members of the Marine Corps. However, when caught up in the powerful forces that drive this form of behavior, the negative consequences are often an afterthought in the heat of the moment.

Although arriving at the exact cause of substance abuse challenges is difficult and requires a diagnostic and statistical manual reference. These diagnostic criteria, as outlined by the American Psychiatric Association, highlight the potential driving factors, symptoms, and other elements associated with substance abuse and mental health challenges. That said, some of the potential causes include:


Symptoms and side effects associated with PTSD. This is one of the more prevalent causes of substance abuse for those in the Marine Corps – especially those who have been deployed or active members for a significant period.

However, PTSD doesn’t necessarily have to be directly involved with their military service, as the condition may be present prior to enlisting.


Depression - Reason of Substance Abuse

Depression is another significant contributor to substance and alcohol misuse in the Marine Corps. It’s not uncommon for enlisted Marines to become homesick and fall into depression. The isolation from friends, family, and other loved ones takes a substantial toll, regardless of whether the enlisted is home or abroad.


This mental health disorder goes hand-in-hand with depression in some cases. Many enlisted Marines become paranoid about their spouses at home. Thoughts of their significant others becoming unfaithful can push anyone toward drug and alcohol use.

In addition, trauma can also play a factor in paranoia, especially when a soldier has been deployed, and PTSD plays a role.

Addiction and Alcohol Treatment for Military Veterans

As we mentioned before, alcohol use disorder, co-occurring disorders, relationship problems, military culture, and even prescription drugs are all significant factors when it comes to leaving civilian life to become an enlisted Marine. When these dynamics come together and reach a boiling point, sometimes the only answer is residential treatment.

In some cases, when the problem is less severe, outpatient therapy may also be an option. What’s more important are the different forms of therapy available for veterans, as many of the challenges associated with veteran substance use can become quite complex and require powerful solutions.

These are some of the solutions we provide members of the Marine Corps who are actively battling issues like binge drinking or even drug use.

Behavioral Therapies

There are multiple options for behavioral therapies for members of the Marine Corps. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are both powerful remedies for drug use combined with depression and anxiety.

These forms of treatment assist the client in changing the way they view and react to themselves and the world around them to substitute negative responses with more positive, productive solutions.

Family Therapy

Family Therapy - Addiction Treatment of Military Veterans

This form of therapy can have a significant impact, but in the past was challenging due to situations where clients were away from their families or significant others. It’s difficult to address relationship problems without the significant other being present for therapy.

However, thanks to advances in remote therapy and telemedicine, clients’ family members can participate in treatment from thousands of miles away. Clients also learn techniques and strategies to use in the future after returning home to continue long-term recovery.

Trauma Informed Therapy

Various types of trauma-informed therapies are available for those suffering from PTSD and other trauma-based psychological challenges stemming from a client’s time in the Marines or otherwise.

Although it’s common for the trauma to stem from their service time, it’s also not surprising when clients enter treatment with childhood trauma – either through abusive parents or relatives or other traumatic experiences experienced during their adolescent years.

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South Shores: Proudly Serving Our USMC Family

If you’re a member of the United States Marine Corps or any other branch of the military, it’s important not to mask or hide your substance use issues. There is just as much help for you as there is for a civilian member of society.

At South Shores Detox and Recovery, we specialize in providing this help and invite you to learn about our program. For more information on how we can help you conquer your challenges and enjoy a return to a normal life, contact our Admissions team today.

All calls are completely confidential, so please reach out in confidence to get options for yourself or your loved one today!