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

nd new-onset alcohol-related problems were 7.1 percent.

Young soldiers had the highest risk for developing alcohol-related outcomes, and Reserve and National Guard members returning from combat had higher rates of new-onset heavy drinking than soldiers from other military branches, according to the study.

"I think this study is probably very accurate. As part of the re-entry process, people will turn to coping mechanisms that are easily accessible, and alcohol is easily available, socially acceptable and quite effective for short-term stress relief," said Jeffrey T. Parsons, chair of the department of psychology at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, in New York City. Parsons added that long-term use of alcohol as a coping mechanism can lead to numerous negative outcomes.

He recommended that returning soldiers try to immediately rebuild their support networks. If a deployment has lasted awhile, Parsons pointed out that friends and family members may have moved or just drifted away. "Surround yourself with people you can talk to and establish a support system that isn't tied to a bar," he advised.

Parsons added that being a soldier doesn't mean that you have to be devoid of emotions, and that asking for help isn't a sign of weakness. And, he added, this study may trigger awareness campaigns for military personnel that could "have a huge effect, and it could lead people to treatment on their own." He added that if the military were to develop some kind of routine psychological screening for returning veterans, it "would be a real and clear indication that they valued and respected the contribution of these people."

Another study, this one published as a letter in the same issue of the journal, offers some good news about the mental health of returning combat veterans. This study found there were no statistically significant differences in the rates of suicide between U.S.
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