substance abuse

Veterans’ Suicide Risk Doubles with Drinking, Drug Abuse: Study Finds

United States veterans living with a substance abuse problem have a higher risk of committing suicide than veterans who don’t have this problem, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at more than four million veterans. They determined that eight percent of men and four percent of women had either drug or alcohol issue. Veterans in this category were twice as likely to take their own lives compared to veterans who didn’t have a substance abuse disorder.

Women Especially at Risk for Suicide

The danger of suicide for female veterans with substance abuse difficulties was even more threatening than it was for males. The women were more than five times more likely to commit suicide than female veterans who didn’t abuse alcohol or drugs.

Kipling Bohnert, the study leader, stated that the study results should serve as helpful information for doctors and health care providers working with patients who have substance abuse disorders. It should make them aware of the risk of suicide and encourage efforts toward prevention.

The suicide rate for US veterans is 20 per day, according to researchers. This is much higher than for the general population. Bonhert commented recently in a university news release that substance use disorders “may be important markers for suicide risk.”

Substance Type Plays a Role in Suicide Risk

The study results revealed that the type of substance used by the veterans had an impact on their risk of suicide. Veterans who abused prescription sedatives, such as tranquilizers, were at the highest level of risk.

Female veterans were at higher risk by abusing opioid pain medications. Male veterans were at higher risk of taking their own lives if they were abusing amphetamines (“uppers”), according to the study results.

The study was published in the online version of the journal Addiction. It draws attention to the need for more suicide prevention efforts directed toward veterans with substance abuse issues. This need is even more urgent for veterans living with mental health concerns such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Gun Safety Should be Included in Prevention Efforts

Gun safety needs to be addressed in the efforts to lower suicide rates. Two-thirds of the suicides examined in the study involved use of firearms. Another 25 percent of suicides by veterans with substance abuse issues involved ingesting poisons. Strategies to prevent suicide by taking harmful substances also needs to be addressed.

Medicare’s Strange Stance on Substance Abuse Research

In order to correctly gauge the substance abuse problem in the United States, researchers have to examine data from all sorts of different agencies. One of the agencies that have been able to supply massive amounts of information to researchers is Medicare. Medicare is a federal health care program that is responsible for the care of adults over the age of 65 and people with disabilities as well as people with certain types of diseases. Because of the population that Medicare serves, they are in the possession of valuable information that helps researchers determine how drug and alcohol abuse is growing or declining and what sorts of people tend to gravitate towards substance abuse. However, Medicare has recently declined to offer any sort of demographic information, effectively hindering any attempts at further research.

In 1987 a rule was enacted that stated that in order to use someone’s information for research purposes, the researchers had to obtain that individual’s permission. In the past this rule has been overlooked, yet in 2013 Medicare began taking things into their own hands. They started deleting information from their database that, in the past, had been available to researchers. While nothing can be done to obtain this information, many are working to get the rule reversed or altered to allow researchers can conduct proper investigations.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) stated that they were almost done drafting an appeal to the rule. Representatives from the New York Times and New England Journal of Medicine have also been vocal in the need to change or edit the rule. Despite this, it is unlikely that researchers will be granted access to the demographic information any time soon, as once the rule change is drafted; it has to be passed by the government.

Research conducted using Medicare’s database has been able to shape hospital policies, alert law enforcement of certain drug-using trends and provided researchers with valuable information for other studies relating to drug and alcohol abuse. As the drug environment continues to expand beyond teenagers and young adults, researchers are clamoring for vital information relating to an entire section of the population that has proven that they are at just as much risk for developing drug and alcohol addictions as anyone else.

Therapeutic Site for Vets Helps Reduce Drinking and PTSD Symptoms

Hundreds of thousands of returning active duty soldiers and veterans have drinking problems that are connected to their service for our country. Recently, those who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom seemed to be highly affected. The drinking is often in an attempt to self-medicate the PTSD symptoms they are experiencing.

A few years ago, research was conducted on the effectiveness of an online tool for helping these men and women reduce their drinking as well as their PTSD symptoms. It is called VetChange, and the randomized clinical trial showed that the program did indeed help. The results had been published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Today VetChange is a free service that is sponsored by Boston University and VA Boston Healthcare System in partnership with the National Center for PTSD, with support from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and the National Center for PTSD.

“Many veterans use alcohol to self-medicate for PTSD-related issues, such as stress, anger and sleep problems. Our program focuses on alcohol and its link to PTSD. It helps them learn to address these problems and other stressors in their lives without using alcohol,” said Dr. Brief, Director of Residential and Rehabilitation Services at the VA Boston Healthcare System, and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at Boston University.

The tool can be used by itself for Vets looking to reduce their drinking and improve the quality of their lives, and it can also be used in conjunction with traditional substance abuse and mental health treatments or therapies.

Common Ways Alcohol is Hidden by Teenagers

It is no surprise that teenagers come up with inventive ways to sneak things past their parents and other authority figures. However, in order to protect children, it is important to stay informed on the possible techniques that teenagers use, and stay informed regarding the different ways to tell if a teenager is abusing alcohol.

Alcohol is one of the most common substances abused by teenagers, likely because it is so easy to obtain. Alcohol often already in the home is usually what children will take when they want to experiment with drinking. Keeping tabs on alcohol stocks is one way to ensure that that children are not stealing the beverages, but experts have gotten together to come up with other warning signs and possible ways that teenagers hide alcohol use.

This generation of teenagers is more adept on the internet than ever before. Nowadays there are several videos on Youtube and other websites that lay out step-by-step instructions on how to get away with drinking alcohol while in school. Monitoring what websites teenagers visit is a good way of knowing if they are involved in this type of activity.

In addition to guides on how to drink alcohol in school, the internet is full of other ways to consume alcohol, oftentimes with the goal to do it under the noses of parents, teachers and law enforcement. Children can search the internet for recipes on how to infuse gummy bears with alcohol, how to in inhale alcohol or how to make alcohol infused popsicles.

While teenagers may find tricky ways to get away with consuming alcohol, it is not likely that they will be able to hide the fact that they are drunk. Alcohol on the breath or clothes is a common indicator that a person has been drinking. Additionally, if parents notice that their child’s behavior is different all of a sudden they might be dealing with an alcohol or drug issue. Alcohol affects teenagers in the same ways that it affects adults; vomiting, talking loudly, extreme emotions, loss of balance and slurred speech are all signs that alcohol may have been ingested.

Music Contest Challenges Teens to Stay Above the Influence of Alcohol and Drugs

For the fifth year running, The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, The Grammy Foundation and Music Cares have joined together for the Teens Make Music Contest. As part of the Above the influence Campaign, the contest is designed to help teens rise above the influence of drugs and alcohol through the power of music.

To participate, young musicians from 14-18 can compose an original song or they can make a music video, representing how they celebrate life above the influence. Songs and videos that bring awareness of the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse can also be submitted.

Once a part of a National Youth Anti-Drug Campaign, the Above the Influence Campaign is now a program of the not-for-profit Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. The campaign’s goal is to help teens stand up to negative pressure and influences.

“Our Above the Influence campaign is all about youth empowerment, individual expression, and positive choices, and the Teens Make Music Contest is a wonderful opportunity for teens to uniquely express their individual reasons for living above the influence, said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

Not only are participating teens be provided a platform to tell the world about their choices to stay above the influence, but they could win some really cool prizes as well. The first prize winner will receive two tickets to the 57th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, CA, a $500 cash prize and will have an opportunity to perform a set in the Acoustic Tent on the 2015 Vans Warped Tour. Second- and third- place winners will receive cash prizes. All three winners will get a backstage pass to the rehearsals for the 57th Annual Grammy Awards.

Teens wanting to participate have until December 1, 2014, to submit their entries. For more information and to enter the contest, visit