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2008 HSR&D National Meeting Abstract

National Meeting 2008

1015 — Relationship between Pre-Deployment Alcohol Consumption, Pre-Deployment Psychiatric Symptoms, and In-Theater Psychological Functioning

Kehle SM (Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research (CCDOR), Minneapolis VAMC), Arbisi PA (Minneapolis VAMC), Polusny MA (CCDOR, Minneapolis VAMC), Erbes CR (Minneapolis VAMC), Thuras P (Minneapolis VAMC)

Substance use disorders are a common co-morbidity in individuals with PTSD. One explanation for this relationship is that individuals with PTSD may consume alcohol as a form of avoidance coping, as alcohol use dampens symptoms in the short run. The objective of this presentation is to examine rates of alcohol consumption prior to deployment to Iraq and prospectively examine the impact of pre-deployment drinking on in-theater psychological functioning.

522 National Guard (NG) soldiers were surveyed while on active duty in the month prior to deployment to Iraq. Questions assessing PTSD (the PCL), depressive symptoms (the BDI-II), and the quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption were administered. Of the 522 soldiers who completed the pre-deployment questionnaire, 226 also completed the BDI-II and PCL while in Iraq. The current study will examine the relationship between self-reported drinking behavior and symptoms of PTSD and depression, both prior to deployment and in-theater.

7.0% of the 522 soldiers screened positive for PTSD prior to their deployment. Additionally, 5.4% screened positive for depression and 85.1% reported binge drinking within the past year. Preliminary chi-squared analyses indicated that of the 487 soldiers who reported drinking an alcoholic beverage within the last 12 months, those that screened positive for PTSD were significantly more likely to report weekly binge drinking than those who did not screen positive. Screening positive for depression was not associated with binge drinking. Additional analyses will examine the impact of pre-deployment alcohol consumption on in-theater symptoms of PTSD and depression.

Prior to deployment to Iraq, NG soldiers reported high rates of binge drinking, and soldiers who screened positive for PTSD had significantly higher rates than soldiers who screened negative. It is expected that further analyses will show that higher levels of drinking prior to deployment are predictive of higher levels of PTSD and depression in-theater, due to restricted methods of coping in the absence of readily available alcohol.

These findings suggest that soldiers may be using alcohol to cope with symptoms of PTSD prior to deployment. If pre-deployment drinking negatively impacts in-theater psychological functioning, soldiers engaged in heavy drinking prior to deployment may benefit from more intensive programming focused on healthy coping methods.

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