Abstract: A Quantitative Analysis of the Relationship between PTSD and Opioid Use in Veterans Abstract (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

328P A Quantitative Analysis of the Relationship between PTSD and Opioid Use in Veterans Abstract

Friday, January 14, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Fary Maldonado, Honolulu Veteran Center Specialist/PhD Student, University of Hawaii Manoa, Honolulu, HI
Background: This study examined the proportion of United States veterans who had PTSD and engaged in the use of opioids to cope with it or had done so in the past. The effects that war has on one in terms of mental health are well-known. Many veterans require mental health assistance. One of the ways in which people cope with mental health issues is through the usage of opioids, which temporarily alter their mental state and distract them from the underlying issues. This practice creates other issues, which warrants an evaluation of its scope to determine what interventions are necessary.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey approach was employed for data collection. The sample was gathered using snowballing cluster sampling, with veterans in different communities deliberately contacted and asked to refer others they knew to the study. This method was employed to minimize community-related bias, as one’s environment may also have a significant effect on their propensity to engage in opioid usage. The surveys asked demographic questions and queried whether the participant had ever been diagnosed with PTSD as well as whether they had engaged in opioid use after their military tour. They were encouraged to respond honestly and reassured that their privacy would be guaranteed and reinforced. Overall, 153 participants participated in the study, 147 of whom submitted valid responses.

All of the participants were men, and their average age was 40.2. The demographic information was used for basic stratification of the participants used on age. Participants who responded “no” to the PTSD question were excluded from the study. The proportions of the respondents in different age categories who responded positively to the questions regarding their opioid use were calculated. Due to the privacy requirements, other types of stratification were not considered.

Results: 127 veterans responded that they had been diagnosed with PTSD, and their responses were considered further. Of these, a total of 35 (27.6%) respondents admitted to engaging in opioid use after their service and diagnosis. The proportion of veterans that used opioids decreased with age, with 35.2% of participants aged 18 to 30 abusing the substance and 20.3% of those aged 45 and above doing the same. With that said, these statistics are not necessarily representative of the broader community due to the small, stratified sample size.

Implications: Overall, veterans’ usage rates of opioids appear to be alarmingly high compared to the average across the population. Studies to help this vulnerable population are good for society. It is possible to infer that veterans with PTSD are currently not being served by the medical system adequately or that perhaps they are and there is a need to identify factors which can help access to the best services. Additional research into their mental health states, needs, and coping methods is warranted and necessary. Such studies can also verify the validity of the study’s findings, especially for the relationship found between age and opioid usage. With more detailed information, effective intervention for the population can be developed and deployed.