A research study conducted in partnership by the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and the University of Michigan Health System has shown that veterans who suffer from both PTSD and substance use disorder have an increased risk of death. This is the very first study which examines associations and links between substance use disorder and death for vets who have PTSD, and the study included data on the youngest veterans who have come back from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. According to VA Ann Arbor post-doctoral fellow, University of Michigan research fellow, and lead author of the study Kipling Bohnert, Ph.D., the study provides some important clues about the best methods of treating veterans for positive outcomes.
Bohnert the study underlines the importance of treating veterans for both PTSD and substance use disorder, explaining “Attention needs to be paid to veteran patients with PTSD, with an emphasis on identifying those who might also have a problem with drug or alcohol use. This study highlights the potential importance of effective treatment for both conditions in helping veterans after they’ve returned from conflict.” More research is necessary to determine why younger vets seem to exhibit stronger associations between the risk of death and substance use disorders. Director of the National Serious Mental Illness Treatment Research & Evaluation Center at the VA Federic C. Blow, Ph.D., who is also the senior author of the study paper which was published, stated “In theory, a treatment program that addresses both issues — substance use and PTSD — should reduce the risk of death from all causes, and this may be especially true for the nation’s youngest veterans.”