Cannabis Use Disorder Treatment Barriers and Facilitators Among Veterans With PTSD

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Abstract

In light of recent data demonstrating large variability in the diagnosis of cannabis use disorders (CUDs) within the Veterans Affairs Health Care System (VA), it is important to elucidate VA-specific barriers and facilitators to CUD diagnosis and treatment engagement. This issue is particularly salient among veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), given that PTSD is the most common co-occurring psychiatric disorder among veterans with CUD and is associated with poorer treatment outcomes. The goal of the current study was to evaluate the potential role of system-, clinician-, and patient-level factors associated with both CUD diagnosis and treatment engagement. Key personnel were interviewed from PTSD programs with both low and high rates of CUD and substance use disorder (SUD) programs with both low and high rates of SUD treatment engagement. Common themes emerged across clinics that may represent barriers to CUD diagnosis and treatment engagement and included, for example, clinician’s concerns about negative consequences associated with CUD diagnosis (e.g., service connection). Potential facilitators to CUD diagnosis and treatment also emerged and included the use of formal assessment approaches when evaluating veterans for SUDs. Together, findings suggest opportunities, such as CUD-specific education and training for clinicians, to improve VA care.

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