It is recognised that veterans are more likely to experience a range of mental health conditions such as anxiety, major depression, substance use disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Many individuals use substances as a coping strategy for dealing with the stress and trauma they have experienced.
In a recent study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers have analysed substance use disorder prevalence and treatment among veterans.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism collected information from 36,301 United States civilian adults using the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III. The researchers carried out interviews with the participants to find out more about their veteran status, use of substances, levels of functioning and their use of treatment for substance use disorders.
The results show that the veterans’ predicted prevalence of any past-year substance use disorder was 32.9% and lifetime use disorder was 52.5%. The differences in lifetime substance use disorder were linked with differences in substance-specific disorders, namely alcohol use disorder and tobacco use disorder. The research also found that veterans reported significantly lower functioning in almost all physical and mental health domains and veterans with SUD reported the lowest functioning overall. Veterans were more likely to use a treatment such as self-help, service from a professional, and outpatient intervention. It is notable however that although a minority of veterans with past-year SUD receive treatment, most do not perceive themselves as needing this kind of support.
It is vital to continue to gather data and analyse trends to advance the understanding of specific risk factors associated with substance use disorders within this population. This will also help guide effective treatment options.