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Screening for substance abuse and psychiatric disorders among women patients in a VA Health Care System.

Davis TM, Bush KR, Kivlahan DR, Dobie DJ, Bradley KA. Screening for substance abuse and psychiatric disorders among women patients in a VA Health Care System. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.). 2003 Feb 1; 54(2):214-8.

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OBJECTIVE: This study of women Veterans Affairs (VA) health care patients screened for the prevalence of past-year smoking, hazardous and problem drinking, other drug abuse, and psychiatric disorders. METHODS: A survey was mailed to women veterans who had received care from VA Puget Sound Health Care System between October 1, 1996, and January 1, 1998. Screening measures included questions about cigarettes; questions from the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test about consumption (hazardous drinking); the TWEAK test (problem drinking); a drug abuse screen; the Patient Health Questionnaire (psychiatric conditions); and the PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) Checklist. RESULTS: Of eligible patients, 1,257 (65 percent) returned surveys with complete substance use data. Patients reported a relatively high rate of past-year smoking (29.1 percent) and hazardous drinking, problem drinking, or both (31.1 percent). The rate of past-year drug use was much lower (4.9 percent). Younger age was strongly associated with greater substance abuse: 59 percent of women under age 35 screened positive for smoking, hazardous or problem drinking, or drug abuse. Screening positive for a psychiatric condition (N = 504) was also associated with substance abuse: The rate of past-year drug abuse among women screening positive for a psychiatric condition (9.7 percent) was double the rate for the entire sample. Of the women who screened positive for depression, PTSD, eating disorders, or panic disorders, 57 percent screened positive for substance abuse (including smoking). CONCLUSIONS: Substance abuse is common among women VA patients and is associated with younger age and with screening positive for other psychiatric conditions. Providers are expected to follow up on positive screening tests, and these data indicate substantial provider burden.

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