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Before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health Regarding Substance Abuse/Co-morbid Disorders:  Comprehensive solutions to a Complex Problem

March 11, 2008

Each month hundreds of active duty troops, reservists and National Guard members return to their families and communities from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Given the demanding and traumatizing environments of their combat experiences, many veterans experience psychological stresses that are further complicated by substance use and related disorders.  In fact, research studies indicate that veterans in the general U.S. population are at increased risk of suicide.

Moreover, according to the results of a National Survey on Drug Use and Health report issued by SAMHSA in November 2007, among veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who received care from the Department of Veterans Affairs between 2001 and 2005, nearly one third were diagnosed with mental health and/or psychosocial problems and one fifth were diagnosed with a substance use disorder (SUD).  Substance dependence or abuse includes such symptoms as withdrawal, tolerance, use in dangerous situations, trouble with the law, and interference in major obligations at work, school, or home during the past year.  Individuals who meet the criteria for either dependence or abuse are said to have a SUD.

In this NSDUH report, combined data from 2004 to 2006 indicate that an annual average of 7.0 percent of veterans aged 18 or older (an estimated 1.8 million persons annually) experienced serious psychological distress (SPD) in the past year.  Veterans aged 18 to 25 were more likely to have had an SPD (20.9 percent) than veterans aged 26 to 54 (11.2 percent) or those aged 55 or older (4.3 percent).  Female veterans were twice as likely as male veterans to have had an SPD in the past year (14.5 vs. 6.5 percent).  And veterans with family incomes of less than $20,000 per year were more likely to have had an SPD in the past year than veterans with higher family incomes

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