New approaches sought for troop substance abuse

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. government experts are seeking new ways to treat a flood of American troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with substance abuse problems compounded by conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.

“This new combination of moderate traumatic brain injury along with post-traumatic stress disorder and the substance abuse has been very difficult to treat,” Dr. Thomas Kosten, who heads a Department of Veterans Affairs effort to improve substance abuse treatment, said on Wednesday.

“We’re seeing things that we, quite frankly, haven’t seen before in terms of having to treat them,” said Kosten, a psychiatry and neuroscience professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.

National Institutes of Health, Pentagon, VA and academic experts met on Tuesday and Wednesday to consider recommendations on preventing and treating substance abuse among troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, hoped for final recommendations in two months.

“Substance abuse disorders are much more prevalent among individuals that have been exposed to war environments, as are other psychiatric disorders. So the outcomes of these individuals, if not properly addressed, can be very poor,” Volkow said in a telephone interview.

Many troops coming home from the wars binge-drink alcohol, Kosten said. About 3 percent are hooked on opiate painkillers. And overall, the returning troops smoke cigarettes at levels more than double that of the general population, he said.

A study by the RAND Corp. research organization estimates that about 18.5 percent of the U.S. troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan show signs of either PTSD or depression, conditions linked closely with substance abuse.

PTSD can stem from wartime trauma such as being wounded or seeing others hurt or killed.

Symptoms range from irritability and outbursts of anger to sleep difficulties, trouble concentrating, extreme vigilance and an exaggerated startle response. People also can persistently relive the traumatic event.

Kosten urged a more uniform approach to treating them with their various problems.

“There needs to be much more following of a protocol, so to speak, and less of a free-for-all kind of treatment that’s provided — and then monitoring the outcomes,” Kosten said.

“I think if you went to 10 different places to get your post-traumatic stress disorder treated, you could get 10 different treatments, it feels like. That would be including the VA,” Kosten said.

(Editing by Maggie Fox and Xavier Briand)


Related Posts:

By Julie Steenhuysen CHICAGO (Reuters) - A study of identical twins — one with combat experience and one without — suggests both genetic and environmental factors contribute to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), U.S. researchers said Tuesday. The 10-year study aimed to determine whether the often-debilitating anxiety disorder arises from an inherent vulnerability or is strictly caused by

Full Post: Some people may be predisposed to PTSD

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Traumatic brain injury may lead to an increased risk of developing symptoms like those of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other disorders, a panel of experts said on Thursday. A committee of the Institute of Medicine, which provides advice to U.S. policymakers, reviewed studies on the consequences of the kind of brain injuries

Full Post: Many risks seen with traumatic brain injury

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Indicators of arousal, such as elevation of the heart and respiration rates, which occur immediately after a traumatic event, are predictive of future posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Australian researchers report. “Fear-conditioning models posit that increased arousal at the time of trauma predicts subsequent PTSD. This multisite study evaluated the extent to

Full Post: Heart, respiration rates predict PTSD risk

LONDON (Reuters) - Playing Tetris, rated one of the greatest video games of all time, immediately after traumatic events appears to reduce flashbacks that plague sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a British study. The preliminary findings could lead to new treatments to prevent or cut flashbacks that are a hallmark of the condition, also

Full Post: Computer puzzle may ease post-traumatic stress

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Almost half of college-age Americans have suffered from some type of mental health problem in the past year, but few seek treatment, a survey finds. The survey, of more than 5,000 U.S. adults ages 19 to 25, found that mental health disorders were common among both college students and those not

Full Post: Mental health disorders common in young adults: survey

Site Navigation

Most Read