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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Substance Abuse Problems in Veterans

On this Veteran’s Day, we salute the men and women of our armed forces, past and present, for their service to our country.

Substance abuse professionals have been studying the prevalence and effects of substance abuse in active duty soldiers and veterans.  Unfortunately, the statistics are quite sobering.  There is evidence that the prevalence of substance abuse (alcohol and drug abuse) disorders among veterans of the post-Vietnam conflict era is more than 50% higher than among the general population, as is tobacco use.

Other statistics show that among soldiers who have been deployed and have experienced combat situations, new-onset alcohol problem prevalence rates are higher than nondeployed soldiers, with the youngest deployed soldiers at highest risk for developing alcohol problems.

Today, R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), issued a statement reaffirming the nation’s commitment to provide access to high quality treatment for addiction and other mental health disorders to active duty service members and veterans, in whom the prevalence of prescription drug misuse now is more than double that of the non-military population.

This is timely given the fact that there are major unmet needs for alcohol and substance abuse treatment among veterans.

A new means to reach out to veterans in need of substance abuse treatment capitalizes on technology developed by the Veterans Administration (VA) to enhance internal medicine care: Tele-health In-Home Messaging Device internet technology.  An abstract presented at the CPDD 2010 meeting by Santa Ana and colleagues (www.cpdd.vcu.edu/, 2010 Abstract Book PDF, p. 145, abstract 578) described initial efforts to develop the IHMD to conduct remote substance abuse risk assessments, treatment sessions, and to determine whether respondents should be contacted by health professionals for additional follow up.

Should the system work, it might provide a means to assess, monitor, and treat veterans who do not have easy access to VA or other substance abuse treatment centers.

CPDDBLOG welcomes CPDD member’s thoughts on this issue.

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