Posted on August 22, 2008 in Alcohol and Drug News, Alcohol and Drug Treatment

Alcohol Problems Likely Among Those Returning From Combat

Soldiers returning from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to have developed serious drinking problems, a recent study finds. Isabel Jacobsen, who has a Masters of Public Health and works for the Naval Health Research Center, led the study that surveyed over 48,000 servicemen and servicewomen both before and after their deployment over a five year period. Their findings showed that among those National Guard or Reserve members who were deployed with combat exposure, over 40% of them developed either new-onset heavy weekly drinking, binge drinking, or other alcohol-related problems. These numbers were higher than those service members who were not deployed; specifically, those who fought in combat were 63% more likely to develop drinking problems than non-deployed personnel.

Researchers also found that soldiers born after 1980 were over six times more likely to develop binge-drinking problems. Women service members were more likely than men to develop new, heavy weekly drinking than men.

Fighting in a war is obviously one of the most stressful things someone can do. Post-traumatic stress disorder and several other psychological disorders are likely to develop after a distressing event like war. Afterwards, without the proper coping methods, people can often turn to alcohol and drugs to combat painful memories of traumatic events and “numb” oneself to the pain. Instead of responding in this way, returning soldiers should realize that they are going through a stressful time in their life and therefore take steps to get therapy of some kind. Self-medicating with alcohol may seem like an easy solution at the time, but the repercussions are far worse than taking the “harder” route of getting therapy.

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