Alcohol Abuse in the Military

Overall, people in the military drink more than the general public. However, one study reveals that might not be the case for women. The study’s findings were published in the journal Armed Forces & Society.

In 2008, the Department of Defense stated that tobacco and illicit drug use decreased among the military ranks. However, there were increases in a few areas of substance abuse, most notably prescription drug use and alcohol abuse. Between 2002 and 2005, prescription drug use doubled, and it nearly tripled between 2005 and 2008, the National Institute on Drug Abuse stated. Yet alcohol seems to present the largest problem. A study that screened soldiers three or four months after returning home found that 27 percent showed signs of alcohol abuse and had a higher risk of participating in other dangerous behaviors like illicit drug use.

Researchers from Western Washington University surveyed close to 9,000 military men and women – either currently in the army or who had retired. The survey queried respondents about their alcohol use in the past 30 days.

Lead researcher Jay Teachman, Ph.D., found that the longer someone serves in the military, regardless of gender, the more likely he or she will be to abuse alcohol. Soldiers who served in combat zones were more likely to abuse alcohol.

The survey revealed that women have a much different reaction about their experiences in the military than men do. Military men often abuse alcohol because of symptoms related to posttraumatic stress disorder. However, the correlation between alcohol abuse and military women is the fear or actuality of sexual harassment and assault. Sexual assault and alcohol usually go hand in hand, the researchers noted, inside and outside of the military. Women who enter the military become aware of this correlation. The researchers suggested the amount of alcohol military women ingest is less than the amount civilian women do.

The researchers also speculated that military women abstain from alcohol use to prove their place and give them a higher chance of participating in specialty military occupations.

The researchers hope their findings will create a push to help reduce the amount of alcohol abuse in the military.

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