Approximately three to six months after returning from deployment, military service members complete a post deployment assessment that includes screens for substance use and other mental health issues, including post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To determine if service members with positive screens receive timely care from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), scientists from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) compared screening data from 2008–2011 to VHA enrollment and utilization histories. This study is the first multivariate analysis of the Department of Defense and VHA data to assess treatment linkage for veterans with possible behavioral health needs.
Scientists learned that service members with more serious behavioral health needs were more likely than those with less needs to link to VHA. Also, service members were more likely to engage in treatment for depression and PTSD than they were for alcohol use disorders. Findings showed that women were less likely than men to seek treatment for alcohol issues.
Researchers suggest that more outreach is needed to service members with alcohol issues, with a focus on women whose screens suggest alcohol use disorders.
This research was funded as part of a collaborative federal initiative begun in 2010 to support research on substance abuse and associated problems among U.S. military personnel, veterans, and their families. Eleven research institutions in 11 states received more than $6 million in funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs in the Department of Defense, as well as The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), all parts of the National Institutes of Health. More about this research initiative can be found here: https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2010/08/studies-combat-related-substance-use-abuse-to-be-funded-by-nih-va.
For more information on drug use and military, go to: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/military.
- Vanneman, M. et al. Postdeployment Behavioral Health Screens and Linkage to the Veterans Health Administration for Army Reserve Component Members. Psychiatric Services.