Methamphetamine use disorders (MUD) are associated with severe health effects and psychiatric comorbidities, but little is known about the health care utilization of patients with MUD. The goal of this study was to describe health service use among veterans with MUD relative to a group of veterans with an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Using Veterans Affairs (VA) administrative data, we identified 718 patients who were diagnosed with MUD and had confirmatory drug testing. Data were compared with those of 744 patients who had diagnoses of an AUD also with confirmatory testing. We examined diagnoses and medical utilization for 5 years after their index date.
Patients with MUD and laboratory-confirmed recent use were younger and more likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and a psychotic-spectrum disorder (all P values < 0.05). After statistical controls, patients with MUD were more likely to have an inpatient hospitalization (80% vs 70%, odds ratio [OR] = 1.8; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.4-2.3), discharge from an inpatient admission against medical advice (23.4% vs 8.3%, OR = 2.6, 95% CI = 1.9-3.7), receive care at 3 or more VA medical centers (13.1% vs 5.4%, OR = 2.3, 95% CI = 1.5-3.5), have a behavioral flag in the medical record (5.6% vs 1.1%, OR = 4.6, 95% CI = 2.1-10.6), and have more total missed appointments in the 5-year study period (M = 33.1 vs M = 23.5, P < 0.001).
Among veterans with substance use disorders, those with MUD and laboratory-confirmed recent use have additional behavioral, health care utilization, and psychiatric characteristics that need to be considered in developing programs of care.