How Are Substance Use Disorders Addressed in VA Psychiatric and Primary Care Settings? Results of a National Survey

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Abstract

Objective

This study examined interventions for substance use disorders within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) psychiatric and primary care settings.

Methods

National random samples of 83 VA psychiatry program directors and 102 primary care practitioners were surveyed by telephone. The survey assessed screening practices to detect substance use disorders, protocols for treating patients with substance use disorders, and available treatments for substance use disorders.

Results

Respondents reported extensive contact with patients with substance use problems. However, a majority reported being ill equipped to treat substance use disorders themselves; they usually referred such patients to specialty substance use disorder treatment programs.

Conclusions

Offering fewer specialty substance use disorder services within the VA may be problematic: providers can refer patients to specialty programs only if such programs exist. Caring for veterans with substance use disorders may require increasing the capacity of and establishing new specialty programs or expanding the ability of psychiatric programs and primary care practitioners to provide such care. (Psychiatric Services 58:266–269, 2007)

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