Veterans, substance use and trauma-informed care: analysis of veterans’ treatment needs in a multi-state sample of inmates
Background: As of 2016, there were approximately 20.4 million living veterans in the United States, (PEW, 2017). While many veterans are able to reintegrate successfully and seamlessly when they return from their overseas service, there is also a potential for increased use of less desirable coping mechanisms such as use of alcohol, prescriptions narcotics, and illicit substances. This may occur in part due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms that are either undiagnosed, or not sufficiently treated, with an attempt to self-medicate. Agencies such as the Unites States Department of Veterans Affairs are in place to help veterans and their families gain access to necessary medical and mental health services. Unfortunately, due to high demand and limited funding, and issues of accessibility, many veterans have unmet treatment needs.
Research Question: What is the extent of the need for substance use treatment for incarcerated veterans? How can treatment better address their unique intersectional needs?
Methods: This paper seeks to assess level of need for substance use treatment with data from approximately 8,000 State sentenced inmate respondents from the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Corrections Facilities 2004 data set. This dataset contains data from self-report surveys that were administered between October 2003 and May 2004. Analyses include discussion of veteran status, branch of military in which participants served, along with information about use of psychoactive substances (illicit, prescription narcotic, and alcohol).
Results: Preliminary results suggest high rates of substance use among incarcerated veterans, and need for comprehensive trauma-informed treatment options.
Key Conclusions: There is a need for comprehensive and integrative treatment options for veterans in state custody, including innovative approaches that include trauma-informed care, and specialized programs. One option is the use of Veterans Treatment Courts to address the unique substance use, mental health, and social needs of veteran population, while acknowledging their unique status.