The U.S. government and experts from academia are looking for new ways to treat the growing number of American troops with addiction problems and post-traumatic stress disorders, Fox News reported Jan. 8.
“Substance-abuse disorders are much more prevalent among individuals that have been exposed to war environments, as are other psychiatric disorders,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “So the outcomes of these individuals, if not properly addressed, can be very poor.”
NIDA, the Pentagon, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and academic experts are developing treatment protocols and outcome measures, and plan to issue a final report in about two months.
Thomas Kosten, a psychiatry and neuroscience professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas and head of the VA’s program investigating treatment modalities aimed at the needs of soldiers, sailors and airmen, said that binge drinking is common among veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars. Nearly 3 percent of returning troops use opiate painkillers, and the smoking rate among returning troops is more than double that of the general population, Kosten said.
A RAND Corporation study concluded that over 18 percent of U.S. troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan exhibit signs of either PTSD or depression. “This new combination of moderate traumatic brain injury along with post-traumatic stress disorder and the substance abuse has been very difficult to treat,” Kosten said. “We’re seeing things that we, quite frankly, haven’t seen before in terms of having to treat them.”