Date Published: 5 May 2009
PTSD, Alcohol Problems Co-Occur in Returning Troops NIAAA Track
Military service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use disorders simultaneously, a serious co-morbidity that is likely to rise as troops continue to come home.
These co-occurring illnesses present treatment challenges that will be addressed
as part of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
(NIAAA) track at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting.
The symposium, which is among 16 offered by NIAAA at the May 16-21 APA meeting
in San Francisco, will discuss special issues for veterans living with both
PTSD and alcohol use disorders, including available medication and behavioral
interventions. Future directions for research, policy and clinical practice
will also be identified.
“At-risk drinking and alcohol use disorders are major problems in the U.S. with three out of ten U.S. adults drinking at levels that elevate their risk for alcohol-related problems, and the rate is much higher in service members returning from deployment,” says Mark L. Willenbring, M.D., director of the NIAAA Division of
Treatment & Recovery Research. “Early recognition and treatment is effective and can be done by nonaddiction
specialists. Since most returning service members obtain their mental health care in the community
rather than the VA, psychiatrists are in a prime position to make a difference. NIAAA will present the latest
research and provide the practical tools to do so.”
Dr. Willenbring also will present an online press briefing called “Alcoholism:
It Isn’t What It Used to Be,”
based on findings of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.
“Most people with alcohol disorders are younger drinkers with less severe disorder,” says Willenbring, “If patients and
physicians can recognize risky drinking and less severe dependence, we can prevent the development of
severe chronic dependence. What’s needed is a new public and professional understanding of the drinking
patterns and early symptoms that increase risk.”
The NIAAA research series at the APA Annual Meeting will also include symposia
and workshops on a
range of topics, such as the development of new medications for alcohol use disorders, the specifics of
treating women, and the treatment of alcohol use disorders when they occur with other psychiatric