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Combination of PTSD, Substance Abuse Can be Deadly for Veterans

Combination of PTSD and Substance Abuse Can be Deadly for Veterans  New research from the University of Michigan suggests that veterans battling post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and substance abuse disorders face a greater risk of death.

The study, which includes findings from veterans returning from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the first to assess the combined impact of drug or alcohol use disorders in association with PTSD.

Kipling Bohnert, Ph.D., the study’s lead author, says the research sheds new light on the importance of treating both substance use and post-traumatic stress disorders in veterans.

“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,” Bohnert said. “This study highlights the potential importance of effective treatment for both conditions in helping veterans after they’ve returned from conflict.”

Prior studies have linked an increased risk of death among veterans with PTSD, but this study is the first to highlight the association between substance use disorders, PTSD and mortality.

The study was published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Young veterans, those 45 and under, appear especially vulnerable to both injury and non-injury-related death when PTSD is combined with substance abuse.

Injury-related death included homicides, suicides and accidents, while non-injury related deaths included heart disease, cancer and other health problems.

Bohnert said more research is necessary to figure out why younger veterans exhibit a stronger tie between substance use disorders and death.

Federic C. Blow, Ph.D., the paper’s senior author, believes the research might be helpful for physicians in deciding the best way to treat their patients.

“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,” Blow said.

Source: University of Michigan

Combination of PTSD, Substance Abuse Can be Deadly for Veterans

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Combination of PTSD, Substance Abuse Can be Deadly for Veterans. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 19, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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