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Studies on combat-related substance use and abuse to be funded by NIH and VA

Eleven research institutions in 11 states will receive more than $6 million in federal funding from fiscal year 2010 to support research on substance abuse and associated problems among U.S. military personnel, veterans, and their families. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, is collaborating with the Department of Veterans Affairs, to award grants that will examine substance abuse related to deployment and combat related trauma. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are also NIH partners in this endeavor. NIH is awarding more than $4 million in grant funding; the VA, around $2 million.

The funding opportunity announcement, released last July, solicited applications on the causes, screening, identification, prevention, and treatment of substance use and abuse including alcohol, tobacco, illicit and prescription drugs and associated problems. Institutions that are receiving awards are Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass.; Dartmouth College, Hanover, N. H.; the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston; the National Development and Research Institutes, New York City; the University of California, San Francisco; the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul; The University of Missouri, Columbia; and VA Medical Centers in West Haven, Philadelphia, Little Rock and Seattle.

Most of the research is directed at substance abuse and related conditions experienced by veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is a growing awareness that military personnel returning from these prolonged conflicts have a variety of serious problems, including depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and substance abuse. Some face these and other diverse symptoms as a result of traumatic brain injury or post traumatic stress disorder related to battle experiences. Many of these conditions are interconnected, and contribute to individual health and family relationship crises. There has been little research on how to prevent and treat unique characteristics of these wartime-related issues.

Several projects will look at treatment seeking patterns why and when veterans ask for help, and why many don't. Scientists will explore treatment strategies, including cognitive behavioral therapy and Web-based approaches as well as the most effective therapies for soldiers who have co-occurring disorders, such as depression and substance abuse. Researchers will also determine if early intervention, within two months of returning from war, can improve outcomes.

The research will examine the high rate of smoking among returning military personnel. "Smoking prevalence in the military, especially among men aged 18 to 25 years, is nearly double that of the civilian population," said Cathy Backinger, Ph.D., chief of NCI's Tobacco Control Research Branch. "NCI research funded under this initiative, looking at reducing smoking by military personnel, will go a long way toward helping service members avoid developing lung cancer and the many other diseases caused by smoking."

In addition, some of the newly funded research projects will examine how veterans attempt to reintegrate into their work and family lives after experiencing war conditions.

"These research projects will give us important information about the ways that combat stress and substance abuse affect returning military personnel and their families," said NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. "This knowledge will be used to improve our prevention and treatment approaches, which we hope will reduce the burden of combat-related trauma. Working cooperatively with the VA and other partners will help in finding solutions for this shared concern."

"The Department of Veterans Affairs has a commitment to meet the full range of our Veterans' physical and mental health care needs, and that includes addressing substance abuse," said Dr. Joel Kupersmith, chief research and development officer for VA. "This coordinated research effort is one more way we are turning that commitment into action."

"NIAAA-supported research has documented a significant association between combat deployment of U.S. military personnel to Iraq and Afghanistan and the onset of alcohol problems upon their return to the U.S.," notes NIAAA Acting Director Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D. "We hope that by developing new strategies to prevent and treat alcohol abuse among returning servicemen and women, these new research projects will improve the lives of military families."

The July 2009 Funding Announcement press release can be found at

A complete listing of grants can be found below.


Contact: NIDA Press Office
NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse

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