PTSD and substance use disorder among veterans: characteristics, service utilization and pharmacotherapy.J Dual Diagn. 2015; 11(1):22-32.JD
While there has been considerable concern about veterans with dually diagnosed posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and comorbid substance use disorders, a national study of clinical characteristics, service utilization, and psychotropic medication use of such veterans in Veterans Affairs (VA) has yet to be conducted. We hypothesized that veterans having both PTSD and substance use disorder would have lower socioeconomic status, greater medical and psychiatric comorbidity, higher medical service utilization, and more psychotropic pharmacotherapy fills.
National VA data from fiscal year 2012 were used to compare veterans with dually diagnosed PTSD and substance use disorder to veterans with PTSD without substance use disorder on sociodemographic characteristics, psychiatric and medical comorbidities, mental health and medical service utilization, and psychotropic pharmacotherapy. Comparisons were based on bivariate and Poisson regression analyses.
The sample included all 638,451 veterans who received the diagnosis of PTSD in the VA in fiscal year 2012: 498,720 (78.1%) with PTSD alone and 139,731 (21.9%) with dually diagnosed PTSD and a comorbid substance use disorder. Veterans with dual diagnoses were more likely to have been homeless and to have received a VA disability pension. Medical diagnoses that were more strongly associated with veterans with dual diagnosis included seizure disorders, liver disease, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Psychiatric comorbidities that distinguished veterans with dual diagnoses included bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Veterans with dually diagnosed PTSD and substance use disorder also had a greater likelihood of having had mental health inpatient treatment. There were no substantial differences in other measures of service use or prescription fills for psychotropic medications.
Several substantial differences were observed, each of which represented more severe medical and psychiatric illness among veterans with dually diagnosed PTSD and substance use disorder compared to those with PTSD alone. However, effective treatments are available for these disorders and special efforts should be made to ensure that veterans with dual diagnoses receive them.