An estimated 40,000 Iraq and Afghanistan vets have already been treated for drug abuse. This doesn’t take into consideration the thousands who have avoided treatment or relied on private programs. What’s more substance abuse centers are not only dealing with drug and alcohol abuse but also a surge in homelessness among vets, PTSD injuries, depression, and other associated mental health issues.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) released a paper a few months back on substance abuse among the military, veterans, and their families, and found that prescription drug abuse and heavy alcohol use are on the rise.
In fact, the Millennium Cohort Study, which is following a representative sample of U.S. military personnel from 2001 to 2022, shows that Reserve and National Guard personnel and younger service members who deploy with reported combat exposures are at increased risk of new-onset heavy weekly drinking, binge drinking, and other alcohol-related problems.
To meet this need, a host of government agencies, researchers, public health entities, and others are working together to adapt and test proven prevention and treatment interventions for potential use with military and veteran populations and their families.
In one project, for example, researchers are using smart phones and wearable wireless sensors to record real-time responses to stress among veterans suffering from addiction and trauma. The data will be compiled and analyzed to detect patterns of responding that predict relapse. Psychologists are working with the research team to create interventions that can be delivered by smart phones to help deter patient drug use as a response to stress.
The NIDA along with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and other institutes are also funding 14 projects to explore: therapies for co-occurring disorders, such as depression and substance abuse; the effectiveness of early interventions for recently returning soldiers; and the impact of youth substance abuse prevention intervention designed for parents returning from deployment.