The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Winter
2014

The Unmarried Vet—Cohabiting, with Cocaine




Public officials are understandably distressed at the high levels of drug abuse found among returning veterans, especially veterans living in the nation’s blighted inner cities.  And they strive valiantly to find ways to combat the problem.  If they take their cues from a study recently completed at the National Development and Research Institutes (NDRI) in New York City, these officials will encourage these veterans to marry and stay married and to stay completely clear from cohabitation, the toxic surrogate for marriage.

To determine the prevalence of substance-use disorder (SUD) and other mental-health problems among recently discharged veterans in New York City, the researchers examined data collected between February 2011 and September 2012 from veterans who had been discharged from the military within the previous two years.

These data indicate a disturbingly high prevalence of drug and alcohol use among recently returned urban veterans.  Substance-use disorder showed up among almost one-third (32.1%) of the veterans surveyed.  More than one-quarter (28.3%) of those surveyed suffered from alcohol-abuse disorders, and almost one-fifth (18.5%) reported drug-use disorders.

These data further reveal that marital status is a powerful predictor of substance use—or abstinence.  The researchers conclude that, when compared to married veterans, “single veterans were 3.5 times more likely to have substance-use-related problems, whereas divorced, separated, and widowed veterans were up to six times more likely to have substance-use-related problems.”

The researchers further remark, “Surprisingly, in contrast to marriage, cohabitation does not appear to be a protective factor against substance abuse.  Cohabiting veterans were almost eight times more likely to have substance-use-related problems than married veterans.”

Surprisingly?  Only the profound moral confusion of twenty-first-century social scientists can account for their puzzlement over the baleful effects of a faux marital union—sans vows, sans faith, sans commitment, sans discipline, sans protection against drugs and alcohol.

Only if public officials can get past such confusion do they have the slightest hope of reducing the tragic prevalence of substance use among urban veterans.

(Peter Vazan, Andrew Golub, and Alex S. Bennett, “Substance Use and Other Mental Health Disorders Among Veterans Returning to the Inner City: Prevalence, Correlates, and Rates of Unmet Treatment Need,” Substance Use and Misuse 48.10 [2013]: 880-93.)

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