Veterans at Risk

Substance use disorders and posttraumatic stress disorder in younger veterans

(RxWiki News) Veterans with substance abuse and posttraumatic stress have a higher risk of dying from both injury and health related issues. How can treatment programs address both issues at once?

A recent study looked for links between at mortality rates for veterans. Substance abuse and posttraumatic stress rates were higher in mortality rates of veterans under the age of 45.

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Kipling Bohnert, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Veterans Affairs (VA) and Federic C. Blow, PhD, director of National Serious Mental Illness Treatment Research & Evaluation Center at the VA in Ann Arbor, Michigan, led the investigation.

For the study, 272,509 VA patients in 2004 were evaluated for substance use disorder (SUD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mortality rates.

Results found greater mortality rates, both injury and non-injury related, among veterans under the age of 45 with SUD.

Injury related deaths included accidents, suicide, and violence, while non-injury included health problems such as cancer and heart disease.

SUD contributed to deaths due to health problems in the under 45 group compared to the other groups.

The under 45 group also had the highest incidence of patients having both SUD and PTSD.

Dr. Bohnert said, “Attention needs to be paid to veteran patients with PTSD, with an emphasis on identifying those who might also have a problem with drug or alcohol use.”

“This study highlights the potential importance of effective treatment for both conditions in helping veterans after they’ve returned from conflict.”

Dr. Blow said, “In theory, a treatment program that addresses both issues—substance use and PTSD—should reduce the risk of death from all causes, and this may be especially true for the nation’s youngest veterans.”

This study was published in September in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Funding for the study was provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, no conflicts of interest were found.

Review Date: 
September 24, 2012