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ALCOHOL AND THE MILITARY by David Veach lpc lac


Alcohol abuse encompasses a spectrum of unhealthy alcohol drinking behaviors, ranging from binge drinking to alcohol dependence. Alcohol abuse was a psychiatric diagnosis in the DSM-IV, and has been merged with alcohol dependence into alcohol use disorder in the DSM-5.

How many drinks would be considered moderate drinking?

Moderate alcohol consumption: •According to the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, moderate drinking is up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.

What would you consider binge drinking?

Binge Drinking: •National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men—in about 2 hours. • •The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which conducts the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), defines binge drinking as 5 or more alcoholic drinks for males or 4 or more alcoholic drinks for females on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on at least 1 day in the past month.

•What would you consider heavy alcohol use?

•SAMHSA defines heavy alcohol use as binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month.

•Sometimes we may see a friend drink a liter or more a day so we consider that “heavy drinking” but this is actually heavy drinking times 10.

•It’s easy to compare ourselves with someone that drinks more and then say that at least we are not that bad, “yet”.

•Alcoholism is a progressive disease, and even when someone stops drinking and picks up the drink years later, they continue down the spiral of the progressive disease right where they left off, not back at the beginning of the disease.

Alcohol and the armed services

“Over the past 30 years, alcohol use, misuse, and alcohol related problems have increased among military personnel. Researchers have tracked the rates of alcohol misuse and alcohol related problems among military personnel, but few have sought to understand alcohol exposure in the military.” (A Dissertation from Alcohol Exposure While Serving in the United States Military, By Marie Agius)

•Military personnel may drink due to depression, anxiety, boredom, traumatic experiences, and being away from family and loved ones.

•Back in the 1980’s there didn’t seem to be too much of a difference between how much someone in the military drank compared to a civilian. Research in the 2000’s has shown a rise in military personnel use compared to civilians.

•The lower the rank and pay the more alcohol can be used in the military.

•Alcohol seems to come with the territory and is an accepted part of military service.

•Before 1982 active duty service members were legally able to use alcohol on base, regardless of whether they met the off base legal minimum drinking age.

•This may have normalized alcohol use in the military.

•Heavy alcohol use and binge drinking are also common place in the military. The first in-depth study on military binge drinking and alcohol related problems used data from the 2005 DoD Survey of Health-Related Behaviors to determine the extent and degree of alcohol use, binge drinking, and alcohol related problems in the military.

•The authors determined that 76% of the Armed Forces used alcohol regularly, while 56.6% met the criteria for binge drinking. (Stahre et al., 2009) The contributing factors may have been single housing and being stationed on ships.

•A study in 2016 screened Marines and Sailors for alcohol misuse immediately prior to deployment. The researchers found that of those assessed 14.6% met criteria for alcohol dependence. Junior service members, including those below the age of 21 had higher rates of positive screens at 18.5 %. (Harbertson et al. ,2016)

•A study in 2017 determined that rates of alcohol use increased for service members both before and after deployment. This could be connected to stress of leaving a family and stress from returning from deployment. (Erbes et al., 2017)

•One study in 2008 found that following combat exposure 26.6% of the active duty servicemen studied, had new onset of binge drinking upon return from deployment. (Jacobson et al., 2008)

Erbes, C. R., Kramer, M., Arbisi, P. A., DeGarmo, D., & Polusny, M. A. (2017). Characterizing spouse/partner depression and alcohol problems over the course of military deployment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 85(4), 297-308. doi:10.1037/ccp0000190

Harbertson, J., Hale, B. R., Watkins, E. Y., Michael, N. L., & Scott, P. T. (2016). Pre- deployment alcohol misuse among shipboard active-duty U.S. military personnel. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 51(2), 185-194. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2016.02.029

Jacobson, I. G., Ryan, M. A. K., Hooper, T. I., Smith, T. C., Amoroso, P. J., Boyko, E. J., Gackstetter, G. D., Wells, T. S., & Bell, N. S. (2008). Alcohol use and alcohol-related problems before and after military combat deployment. Jama, 300(6), 663-675. doi:10.1001/jama.300.6.663

Stahre, M. A., Brewer, R. D., Fonseca, V. P., & Naimi, T. S. (2009). Binge drinking among U.S. active-duty military personnel. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 36(3), 208-217. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2008.10.017

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