The National Guard and Post Deployment Alcoholism
A new study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal found that soldiers in the National Guard with no history of alcohol abuse have a significant risk of developing alcohol related issues following deployment. The study was conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health along with colleagues from three other institutions also concluded that soldiers with the greatest risk of post deployment alcohol issues also experienced post deployment depression and/or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Data was collected from 963 Ohio National Guard Soldiers between June 2008 and February 2009 who stated they had no previous alcohol abuse prior to active duty. Out of the 963 subjects 113 reported alcohol abuse issues that first occurred during or post deployment.
The 113 subjects who reported alcohol abuse were also screened for depression and PTSD based on criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 35 reported experiencing depression, 23 reported PTSD and 15 reported experiencing both disorders. Only a small number of subjects reported little or no alcohol abuse when depression or PTSD was present prior to deployment. Most at risk were males, under 35 and single. Most had experienced only one deployment, although the deployment was to an area with military conflict.
This study has several important implications. Due to the positive correlation between alcohol abuse and PTSD/depression, it s reasonable to conclude that soldiers may use alcohol as a coping method to deal with mental health issues. This is significant when considering treatment options and rationale behind alcohol consumption. At the same time, military personnel have a history of not reporting or seeking treatment for alcohol abuse due to fear of career implications. The results of this study give factors to consider for policy improvement in the area of identification and treatment of alcohol abuse among soldiers.
Restrictions of this study include the inclusion of few women, and the fact that as a rule National Guard members have a higher rate of alcohol abuse than other military personnel yet few studies on National Guard members exist. The majority of studies surrounding these issues are completed on active military personnel.