There are many researches which demonstrate the devasting effects of heroin have towards its users, for example, ‘A total of 60% met the criteria for a lifetime anxiety disorder, and 51% had a current anxiety disorder. A depressive disorder was diagnosed in 41% of subjects, with 30% having a current diagnosis. ‘ (Darke & Ross, 1997).

Heroin is powerful and addictive, and its users often find it very difficult to get rid of their dependence on the drug. However, a study (Robins el al, 1973), has demonstared addiction may not be as difficult to withdraw as it is commonly thought.

The study was sponsored by the US goverment and was carried out in the 1972, for invesigating the porpotion of US Veterans’ taking of drugs such as Heroin during the Vietnam War. It was important to conduct the study as there were reports of many US personel got depenent on the cheap and available drugs, and the US goverment needed the data to prepare on possible health intervention for the soliders returning to their home country.

The US goverment introduced a military program to deal with the drug abuse among troops in Vietnam, and soliders who were departing from the country were required to be interviewed and constribute urine samples which were then analysed for drugs testing. The study focused on September 1971 as the month to collect samples, and those who have been found positive with drug usage were checked up 8-12 months later.

The results has suprisingly suggested that the soliders in Vietnam had greatly descreased their intake of drugs after returning to the US, and very few have became addicted; ‘only 0.7 per cent said that they had been addicted at
any time during the eight to 12 months since their return’. The validity of the solider’s statement had been tested and confirmed by another urine test.

One possible reason to explain the result is that US troops in the Vietnam War went through very harsh experience in the foreign country, being in an hostile place where they were constantly threatened by diseases, and enermies who used effective stratgies such as bobby trap with the advantage being familar with the place and weather. A good avoident approach would be become reliance on drugs which will give them pleasurable feeling, and thus taking drugs such as Heroin. Once they returned to the US, they no longer need to be deal with being in the threatening situation. So they did not need to conduct the avoiding behaviour anymore. Furthermore, the price of Heroin was massively more expensive in the US than Vietnam, it therefore would be an financial bundle for the returned soliders.

The setting of the study is high in ecological validity, as the data were collected from real life soliders who serviced in the Vietnam War. There were little chance of the data not representing the particiapnts because despite the soliders could have lied in interviews due to social desirability, their statement were further tested by urine test. The sample size of the study is big; 943 men was involved. However, it can be challenged as being gender biased as all the data were collected from male US soliders.


S.Darke., J.Ross. (1997), Polydrug dependence and psychiatric comorbidity among heroin injectors. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Volume 48, Issue 2, p135-141.

L.N.Robins., D.H.Davis., D.W.Goodwin. (1974), Drug use by U.S. Army enlisted men in Vietnam: A follow-up on their return home. American Journal of Epidermiology. Volume 99, No. 4, p235-249.


About eugenekitfung

An undergraduate student in Bangor University who lives in Normal Site. NORMAL SITE, TRA LA LA LA!

3 responses »

  1. Rory says:

    I found your blog very interesting to read as I was not aware of the drug addictions that so many of the American soldiers had in the Vietnam war, but in the hostile situations that they were in, the drugs would have been used as a way of escapism to get away from the reality that they could be killed at any moment.

    Robins et al. (1973) were brought in by President Nixon as he was becoming more aware of the drug addictions present in the returning American soldiers from the Vietnam war. However, it should be mentioned that before the urine testing and treatment were conducted, the procedure for drug abusing troops was an embarrassing court martial and relieving from service, which had often meant the soldiers kept, and in some circumstances, increased their addiction to drugs when they returned home (Steele & Murphy, 1971).

    However, although this case may have been effective for the U.S troops, their circumstances were so extreme that a replication of the procedure on another population would not be valid or ethical in anyway as the mindset of the possibility of dying at any moment would have to be present.

  2. As the comment above says the extreme conditions that people are placed under in times of war often is a reason for increased drug use. Kamikazee fighter pilots (ie pikots who drive there planes into objects they wish to destroy) often used to get high and or drunk in order to go through with their missions. The sense of numbness and happiness that is produced by such drugs coupled with the way they make people lose their inhibitions could explain why war crimes are so common in times of conflict.

  3. psuee5 says:

    This is an interesting blog, and yes the study by Robins el al, 1973 shows that soldiers whom relied on drugs, easily beat their reliance. However, I do not agree that the study “has demonstared addiction may not be as difficult to withdraw as it is commonly thought”, especially an addiction like heroin. This is a rare example of drug addictions, the average addict is not addicted to drugs because of an extreme situation such as war. In my personal experience i have found most drug addicts (especially with heroin) were originally recreational users that tried substances a few times too many and then an addiction developed. Adictions are not easy to beat. It’s not just the physical dependence that is the problem, it’s the psychological dependence and the euphoria addicts associate with using. Furthermore, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 2006 50% – 90% of drug addicts relapse. Showing that a drug addiction is not easy to withdraw from.

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