Summary and Analysis

This article reports on a study conducted of Vietnam veterans who had used heroin in Vietnam, as published in the American Journal on Addictions. The study was conducted a few years after the war. Amongst the study’s surprising findings were that over 90 percent of the returned vets who had been addicted to heroin in Asia ceased being addicted in the States — virtually at once. Study findings like this support the validity of the multiple pathways to recovery premise, as CSDAP continues to report on.

Excerpted from

The Vietnam addiction experience was catalogued by Lee Robins, a professor of social science in psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, and her colleagues, in their 1977 classic study “Vietnam Veterans Three Years After Vietnam: How our study changed our view of heroin.” This is the most careful and detailed study of a group of hundreds of heroin-addicted people ever conducted.

Highlights from the article

Richard Wilbur, a physician who was the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense, Health and Environment from 1971-1973, said of this phenomenon: “Everything I learned in medical school about addiction—that someone addicted to narcotics remained hooked forever—was proved wrong.”

Most soldiers (85 percent) said they found opioids readily available to them at home—so we can discount the idea of lack of supply accounting for their mass recovery. Half did try the drugs again in the States. But even among the most vulnerable group—the previously addicted soldiers who used heroin again stateside—fewer than a third ever became re-addicted.

View the Lee Robins study: “Vietnam Veterans Three Years after Vietnam: How Our Study Changed Our View of Heroin.”