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Study Suggests Additional Interventions for Veterans with SUD and History of Abuse


Lifetime physical or sexual abuse is relatively common among patients in treatment for substance use disorder (SUD), but little is known about how past abuse might predict SUD treatment outcomes. This study assessed whether a history of physical or sexual abuse predicted substance use, psychiatric problems, and suicidality in 215 male veterans receiving VA outpatient treatment for SUD. Veterans were divided into three groups, those with: no abuse (n=117), physical abuse (n=49), and sexual abuse (n=49). Baseline self-report data were examined, and telephone interviews were conducted at 6 and 12 months post-intake.

Findings show that men with a history of physical or sexual abuse had more severe drug problems at intake, but by six months there were no group differences in drug use. However, compared to veterans without a history of abuse, veterans with a history of sexual abuse had more severe psychiatric problems at all time points and were more likely to report significant suicidality at intake and 6 month follow-up. This suggests that additional interventions may be warranted for veterans with SUD and a history of sexual abuse. Also, routine screening for suicidality in SUD treatment programs may be warranted given the prevalence of lifetime sexual abuse among SUD patients and the relationship between sexual abuse and attempted suicide.

PubMed Logo Schneider R, Cronkite R and Timko C. Lifetime physical and sexual abuse and substance use treatment outcomes in men. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment December 2008;35(4):353-361.

Dr. Timko is supported by an HSR&D Research Career Scientist Award. All authors are part of HSR&D’s Center for Health Care Evaluation in Palo Alto, CA.

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What are HSR&D Publication Briefs?

HSR&D requires notification by HSR&D-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR&D and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR&D based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR&D published articles. Visit the HSR&D citations database for a complete listing of HSR&D articles and presentations.