The Culture of Alcohol Abuse Within the Military
Many service members in active duty military roles see drinking as part of the culture. Service members are also more likely to abuse alcohol when compared to civilians.
Drinking alcohol has historically been a reward or a way to connect with fellow service members in the military. As a society, many restaurants and bars offer discounted prices for service members. Not surprisingly, alcohol use disorders are the most prevalent form of substance abuse among active service members of the military.
Over the past few years, with more deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, there has been an increase in alcohol consumption, including binge drinking, resulting in alcohol related health issues among service members. In a 2010 study, a group of 6,527 U.S. Army soldiers underwent an alcohol screening 3-4 months after having returned from a deployment to Iraq. The alcohol screening revealed that 27% of the soldiers had recently abused alcohol.
According to the 2015 Health Related Behaviors Survey report, more than 5% of military personnel across all branches are heavy drinkers – those who consume 5 or more drinks on 1 occasion, 5 or more days in a month. Binge drinking is a serious concern, 1 in 3 active duty service members are binge drinkers, which tends to be more common among military personnel with high combat exposure.
An alcohol consumption study reviewed a group of 1,100 soldiers who had been part of an infantry team returning from deployment. The study found a correlation between combat and alcohol misuse. An estimated 25% of those who were sampled were misusing alcohol 3-4 months after deployment. Of those, 12% experienced behavioral problems related to their alcohol use.
Alcoholism in Active Service Members
Alcohol abuse can continue long after military service ends, and statistics, such as the results of the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, show that alcohol abuse is much higher among veterans compared to the general population.
Another study showed that more than 65% of veterans who entered an addiction treatment program reported alcohol as their primary substance of abuse. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports that 1 out of 10 veterans who were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan are diagnosed with alcohol or drug abuse.
PTSD and Alcohol Abuse
Many veterans are also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition that occurs when someone has experienced or witnessed a life-threatening event, such as military combat, traumatic injury, or physical abuse. Symptoms of this condition can include flashbacks of the initial trauma, night terrors, anxiety, and depression.
Veterans with PTSD may be more vulnerable to alcohol abuse and mental health issues:
- About 8 out of 10 Vietnam veterans seeking PTSD treatment have issues with alcohol abuse.
- Veterans diagnosed with PTSD and alcoholism are more likely to binge drink.
- Suicide risk is higher for veterans, age 65 years or older, who are also diagnosed with an alcohol abuse disorder or mental illness.
An important part of Alcohol Awareness Month is choosing an Alcohol-Free weekend during the month of April. The intent is for you to stop drinking from Friday through Monday, and then gauge the effect of the alcohol-free days. If your body has become used to the continual presence of alcohol, suddenly stopping can cause physical effects, such as sweating, nausea, headaches and trouble sleeping.
If it was difficult to manage 72 hours without drinking, that struggle could signal a dependence on alcohol that should be more closely examined. If you are having trouble with your three-day alcohol-free test, we urge you to contact your medical provider.
SOURCE: National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
Alcohol abuse is a disease and disorder of the mind; it is much more common than alcoholism. The intake of large alcohol amounts causes personal, social, and business problems. It affects those closest to the person suffering from this disorder. Their children and emotional partners are exposed to stressful situations, putting children at risk to experience social isolation, depression, and alcohol or drug addiction in the future.
During the first weekend of April, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) focuses on supporting individuals to abstain from alcohol consumption. On National Alcohol Screening Day (NASD), health care professionals give support and opportunity for those who are addicted to alcohol to start therapy and win the battle against alcoholism.
10 Alcohol Abuse Facts
Many people are not ready to face problems that come with a chronic alcohol addiction. Before you take the next drink, think about these facts about alcohol abuse.
1 – Alcohol affects your brain and body
Excessive alcohol consumption leads to reversible brain damage. It affects brain structures such as brain cortex, hypothalamus, small brain, and amygdala. These structures are responsible for coordinating movement, balance, physiological functions, and emotional stability.
Chronic and excessive alcohol consumption leads to dangerous and illegal behaviors and addiction. It causes liver cirrhosis – liver insufficiency, and consequently death.
2 – Alcohol is the most popular psychoactive addictive substance
Those who tried alcohol in childhood have increased the risk to become addicted. Recent research shows that 70% of college students drink alcohol almost every day. Nearly 17 million Americans suffer from alcohol abuse.
3 – Binge drinking is dangerous
Concerning fact is that many young people report excessively drinking in a short period of time. For men, it is more than five, and for women more than four alcoholic drinks within two hours. Large amounts of alcohol provoke vomiting, dehydration, and depresses breathing.
4 – Alcohol has a negative impact on your hormones
Large amounts of alcohol have negative health consequences for both men and women. It can impair the physiological hormone balance of the ovaries and testes.
Binge drinking increases circulating estrogen level and decreases sex hormone binding globulin, which increases the risk of breast cancer. It also lowers testosterone level, which leads to decreased sex drive, low energy, depression, reduced bone, and body mass.
5 – Alcohol abuse has a genetic component
Children who have someone in their family suffering from alcohol use disorder, have a higher risk of becoming addicted. Scientists have found specific genes that contribute to alcohol use disorder.
6 – Dark colored drinks cause severe hangovers
Brandy, bourbon, red wine, and whiskey contain natural chemicals called congeners. These chemicals give the drinks their dark color and irritate blood vessels in the brain, which makes a hangover worse. Drinking light colored drinks may give you less of a hangover. However, the best way to prevent nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, etc. is just to drink less.
7 – Some drinks contain more pure alcohol than you think
It is not recommended to drink more than 14 alcohol units per week. If you drink beer, be aware of light beers because sometimes they contain more pure alcohol compared to others. You should avoid drinking cocktails because you will never know how many units your drink contains.
8 – Red wine is good for your body
A 5 oz glass of wine is usually recommended by health professionals. Good red wine contains antioxidants, reduces blood pressure, cholesterol, and the risk of a stroke. It improves memory and protects the brain from neurodegenerative diseases.
9 – Alcohol is a leading cause of violent behavior and traffic accidents
There is a strong link between alcohol abuse and violence. Men behave more violent after alcohol intake when compared to women.
Alcohol increases the risk of car accidents and violent deaths, especially on weekends.
10 – Alcohol withdrawal symptoms range from mild to serious
Withdrawal symptoms show up as early as eight hours after you stop drinking. They can be different and their characteristics depend on the amount and frequency of alcohol consumption.
Symptoms include sweating, anxiety, headache, insomnia, depression, etc. Serious symptoms may require treatment by health care professionals. In these conditions, a person’s struggle with addiction becomes more intense.
Different factors in a person’s life may lead them to struggle with alcohol abuse. Nowadays, there are different treatment options available that can help you win the battle against addiction. Detoxing, medications, supplements, social, and family support are extremely important for those who are determined to start a new life.