A new report from the advocacy group Human Rights Watch calls for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to expand overdose prevention and housing programs for veterans.
The report notes that 40 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in VA care suffer mental health conditions associated with alcohol and drug dependence.
And interaction with the criminal justice system increases the odds that those conditions will be exacerbated, according to the report.
“Veterans released from jail or prison are at risk for overdose upon release as a result of reduced tolerance after periods of abstinence” researchers wrote.
“Among the hundreds of thousands of incarcerated veterans, many become homeless upon re-entry to the community.”
For the study, researchers reviewed government, academic, and other research, and conducted interviews with veterans, VA officials, and community service providers.
The report also calls for the VA to expand access to naloxone, a medication that can reduce the effects of opioid overdoes.
Patients of VA facilities die from accidental overdose at nearly double the rate of the general U.S. population, according to the report.
The VA plans to carry naloxone at all VA hospitals by the end of 2014, but the report calls for the agency to make it available to all veterans, even if they aren't treated at VA facilities.
Read the full report HERE.