Substance Use Disorders - Quality of Care
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Substance Use Disorders

Substance use and abuse, with its associated health consequences, is a major public health problem. It commonly occurs along with other mental and physical problems, such as depression or chronic pain.

Substance use disorders (SUDs) include dependencies on alcohol, illicit and prescription drugs, and nicotine. SUDs have substantial negative consequences on Veterans' mental and physical health, work performance, housing status, and ability to function socially.

VA supports a broad portfolio of research examining substance abuse prevention, screening, and treatment. These include studies aimed at understanding the genetic factors that may predispose people to alcohol or drug addiction. Learn more.

VA’s Substance Use Disorders Accomplishments:

  • Documenting, as early as the 1940s, a link between smoking and lung cancer
  • Developing the nicotine patch
  • Leading early trials of the effectiveness of methadone, a synthetic opioid used to treat heroin addiction
  • Finding that HIV-infected patients with alcohol problems had more severe HIV-related symptoms than other patients, and problems with memory
  • Developing a vaccine for methamphetamine addiction and successfully testing it in mice

Below is a news story that illustrates VA’s commitment to advancing technology and research initiatives to benefit our nation’s Veterans.

Dr. Lauren Matukaitis Broyles, a nurse researcher at the Pittsburgh VA, believes that a stay in the hospital may be the opportunity to help some Veterans with their risky drinking. (Photo by Bill George)

Dr. Lauren Matukaitis Broyles, a nurse researcher at the Pittsburgh VA, believes that a stay in the hospital may be the opportunity to help some Veterans with their risky drinking. (Photo by Bill George)

Addressing unhealthy alcohol use among Veterans: Hospital stay may be window of opportunity

No one looks forward to a hospital stay. But for some Veterans, the event could be the right moment to begin thinking about making healthy lifestyle changes.

That's the hope of Dr. Lauren Matukaitis Broyles, a VA nurse researcher who specializes in identifying risky drinking patterns and developing effective ways to respond.

She is leading a study that will enroll 320 VA hospital patients who score positive on a screening tool for hazardous drinking, but who don't meet the threshold for an alcohol use disorder. The idea is to use a brief counseling intervention, including phone follow-ups, to help Veterans make positive changes and phase out their unhealthy alcohol use.  Read more..