Military kids have greater risk for alcohol and drug use

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New research from the University of Iowa suggests that having a deployed parent increases the risk of adolescent and teen drug and alcohol use.

Finding consistent data to support this connection across three different age groups — sixth, eighth and 11th-grade students — researchers conclude that coming from a military family might set kids up for risky behavior at a young age.

Students report more frequent use of alcohol, illegal drugs and prescription meds

About 78,000 students in the study answered questions about their lives, including whether or not they had a parent in the military. They also provided responses about their experiences with alcohol, drugs and violence.

Results showed that alcohol consumption rates were 7 to 9 percentage points higher for military children in the past 30 days, and binge drinking rates were 5 to 8 percent higher for children across all grades. Marijuana use, illegal drug use and prescription drug abuse were also increased in children with deployed or recently returned military parents.

"We worry a lot about the service men and women, and we sometimes forget that they are not the only ones put into harm's way by deployment - their families are affected, too," Stephan Arndt, PhD, UI professor of psychiatry in biostatistics and senior study author, said in a press release. "Our findings suggest we need to provide these families with more community support."

Living arrangements affected results, too

The study also found that children with a deployed parent who were not living with another parent or relative had a much higher rate of binge drinking than military children still living with a parent.

Arndt notes that military children already suffer significant stress when a parent is deployed, so arranging to have a child live with a a family member might help prevent risky behaviors.

"Deployment is going to be disruptive anyway, which is probably why we see the overall increased risk of substance use in these children," he said. "And then for those children where parental deployment means they end up living outside of the family, it's a double whammy."

Schools, Arndt emphasizes, should also have a heightened awareness that children of deployed parents need close attention.

The findings are published in the journal Addiction.

Source: Iowa Now

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