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Written by: Nichole Huff, Ph.D., CFLE, & Miranda Bejda, M.S., CFLE

Substance use disorders (SUD) can negatively impact a service member’s ability to perform their duties, in addition to negatively affecting their overall health and the health of their relationships. A service member’s financial health may also be impacted by SUDs. According to the Military Health System, Service members use illicit substances at lower rates than the general public; however, binge drinking rates in the military exceed those of the general public. Further, “a significant portion of active-duty service members will experience a substance use disorder during their enrollment in the military, yet they may not seek out treatment due to stigma, lack of knowledge, or lack of access to high-quality treatment.” 

Professionals can impact the development of recovery capital (RC) in clients with a history of substance use disorder or addiction. Personal RC includes both physical and human capital. Essentially, it is the combination of resources one has available to aid them in overcoming substance use challenges. A seminal primer by White and Cloud (2008) operationalizes personal recovery capital:

A client’s physical recovery capital includes physical health, financial assets, health insurance, safe and recovery-conducive shelter, clothing, food, and access to transportation. Human recovery capital includes a client’s values, knowledge, educational/vocational skills and credentials, problem solving capacities, self-awareness, self-esteem, self-efficacy (self-confidence in managing high risk situations), hopefulness/optimism, perception of one’s past/present/future, sense of meaning and purpose in life, and interpersonal skills.

Building Financial Recovery Capital

Building recovery capital can mitigate the stressors often associated with SUD recurrence (i.e., relapse or return-to-use), including financial stress. To build financial capital, connect service members to resources that can aid them in managing their finances and ensuring their basic needs are being met while in recovery. The areas of personal finance most impacted by SUD include basic money management tasks, budgeting, prioritizing purchases, and debt reduction and rebuilding credit.

The Office of Financial Readiness is dedicated to improving basic financial literacy skills for military families, including bridging financial health and mental health needs, as well as meeting basic needs and covering the essentials, which are vital to rebuilding a solid financial foundation if finances have been impacted by addiction.   

As you work to build financial capital among service members, consider seeking resources to learn more about the science behind addiction, as well as tools specifically designed to bolster financial management capability for individuals in SUD recovery. One such resource is PROFIT: Promoting Recovery Online through Financial Instruction and addiction Training. This no-cost, 2-hour online training developed by Extension Specialists at the University of Kentucky is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. PROFIT leverages Cooperative Extension resources to address the Overdose Epidemic using financial education. The course offers professionals a foundational knowledge of addiction as a chronic disorder while working to increase their comfortability in working with clients impacted by SUD. PROFIT also provides training and free access to the financial literacy program, Recovering Your Finances, an 8-session financial education and soft skills curriculum for individuals in early SUD recovery. Learn more about PROFIT at


Hennessy, E. A. (2017). Recovery capital: A systematic review of the literature. Addiction Research & Theory, 25(5) 349–360.  

National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Military Life and Substance Use. 

Topor, A., Skogens, L., & von Greiff, N. (2018). Building trust and recovery capital: The professionals’ helpful practice. Advances in Dual Diagnosis, 11(2), 76–87.  

White, W. & Cloud, W. (2008). Recovery capital: A primer for addictions professionals. Counselor, 9(5), 22-27.

Photo by Xuejun Li on Adobe Stock