Substance Use and Mental Health Problems Among Arizona Veterans

Analysis of 2010 Arizona Health Survey data has revealed a significantly greater toll that the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq are taking on Arizona’s returning veterans when compared to veterans of other wars. The potential numbers of veterans returning to Arizona from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will likely present a serious challenge to the state’s intervention and treatment resources.

The data indicate that not all casualties suffered by Arizona veterans manifested on the battlefield. Effects of their time of service are playing out on the home front in the form of greater rates of mental health diagnosis and increased substance use than either other veterans of previous wars or non-veterans:

  • Iraq/Afghanistan veterans were more than twice as likely to report having been diagnosed with mental health issues.
  • Incidents of binge drinking in the past twelve months (5+ drinks in a single day) for Iraq/Afghanistan veterans is two times higher in the past year.
  • Nearly 20 percent of Iraq/Afghanistan veterans report 13 or more binge-drinking days in the past twelve months, compared to about 5 percent among veterans and non-veterans

While illicit drug use is very low across all groups, Arizona’s Iraq/Afghanistan veterans reported significantly higher rates of both marijuana (5.8 percent) and prescription drugs (5.3 percent) in the past 30 days compared to marijuana use of about 3 percent for both other veterans and non-veterans and inappropriate prescription drug use at 1.6 and 1.3 percent, respectively.

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