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Mental Disorders Linked to Drug, Alcohol Abuse in U.S. Vets

FRIDAY April 22, 2011 -- U.S. veterans with mental health disorders have high rates of substance abuse, new research shows.

In the study, researchers analyzed U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs data to determine the rates of substance-use disorders among veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan who were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health disorders, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The research team identified 1,001,996 U.S. veterans who were diagnosed with one of six specific mental disorders and found that rates of substance abuse among these veterans ranged from 21 percent to 35 percent.

The highest rates of substance abuse occurred among those with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, according to the report published in the May-June issue of the American Journal of Addictions.

"Our findings may be useful in program planning and for understanding the needs of veterans of different eras," study leader Dr. Ismene Petrakis, of Yale University School of Medicine, said in a journal news release.

"For example, in determining the needs of veterans from the current conflicts, it seems that those with serious mental illness are particularly in need of services to address a [coexisting] substance-use disorder," Petrakis wrote.

More information

The American Psychiatric Association has more about military mental health.

Posted: April 2011


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