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High Rates of Substance Abuse Among Veterans with Mental Health Disorders

Previous studies have found high rates of substance abuse among U.S. veterans, and a new study finds the same among U.S. veterans with mental health disorders. The study, led by Dr. Ismene Petrakis of the Yale University School of Medicine, could be helpful in understanding the needs of veterans of different eras, and in targeting treatment programs.

For the study, the researchers examined data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, looking for substance use disorders in veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and were diagnosed with mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is very common among soldiers. Other mental health disorders include bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The researchers identified more than 1 million U.S. veterans who were diagnoses with one of six mental disorders, and found that rates of substance abuse among them were between 21 and 35 percent. The highest rates of substance abuse were among those with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Dr. Petrakis said that their study suggests that people with serious mental disorders are particularly in need of treatment for a co-existing substance use disorder. This knowledge can help clinicians deal with patients who may not be getting treated for both their mental health disorder and their substance use disorder.

Source: HealthDay News, Mental Disorders Linked to Drug, Alcohol Abuse in U.S. Vets, April 22, 2011

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