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Drinking Problems Greater Among Returning Combat Veterans
Date:8/12/2008

Mental health issues also more common after war, studies show,,,,

TUESDAY, Aug. 12 (HealthDay News) -- A host of new studies confirm that the effects of war linger long after the conflict ends.

The Aug. 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association is a special themed issue on violence and human rights, and three studies published in that issue found that various mental health issues, such as alcohol misuse and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), were more common after exposure to violent conflicts. The one bright spot was a study that found suicide rates weren't higher for returning combat veterans.

The first study found that veterans coming home from combat were 63 percent more likely to report new-onset heavy drinking than were military personnel that hadn't been deployed to combat zones.

"Our study found that combat deployment in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was significantly associated with new-onset heavy weekly drinking, binge drinking, and other alcohol-related problems among Reserve/Guard and younger personnel after return from deployment," wrote the study's authors, who represent various branches of the U.S. military, including the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego.

"Because alcohol use may serve as a coping mechanism after traumatic events, it is plausible that deployment is associated with increased rates of alcohol consumption or problem drinking," the researchers suggested.

Their study included nearly 50,000 military personnel: 26,613 were active duty and 21,868 were Reserve or National Guard. Most -- 37,310 -- were not deployed, while 5,661 were deployed, but in non-combat areas. Just over 5,500 were deployed into combat zones.

New-onset rates of heavy weekly drinking were 8.8 percent after combat deployment, according to the study. Rates of new-onset binge drinking were 25.6 percent for combat veterans returning home, a
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