Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

VA Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

HSR&D Citation Abstract

Search | Search by Center | Search by Source | Keywords in Title

Effects Of Alcohol Use On Patient Outcomes In Veterans With Mild TBI and/or Behavioral Health Symptoms

Herrold AA, High WM, Smith BM, Evans (Mayfield) C, Urban A, Noblett K, Pape TL, Babcock-Parziale JL. Effects Of Alcohol Use On Patient Outcomes In Veterans With Mild TBI and/or Behavioral Health Symptoms. Paper presented at: Federal Interagency Conference on Traumatic Brain Injury; 2011 Jun 13; Washington, DC.


Distinguishing mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and other behavioral, combat-related conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is challenging. Diagnosis is reliant upon overlapping, self-reported symptoms and can be further complicated by alcohol use. Given the paucity of evidence regarding the effects of alcohol on mTBI and behavioral outcomes, we abstracted a pilot sample from a larger study to describe self-reported alcohol use for persons with confirmed (1) mTBI (N = 4), (2) behavioral health conditions (BH) (N = 14), (3) mTBI + BH (N = 10) and (4) healthy controls with similar exposures but without current symptoms (N = 10). Secondly, we determined the prevalence of functional impairments, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression, according to self-reported alcohol use. The larger study enrolls military personnel deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq with a target sample of 720 and we abstracted the first 50 participants for our pilot sample. The majority of the sample is young (mean age = 32 1 year) males (86%). Group assignment is based on an evaluation that includes a structured neuropsychological interview, Clinically Administered PTSD Scale, Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II), Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (Audit-C), World Health Organization Disability Assessment Schedule (WHODAS-II) and Insomnia Severity Index (ISI). Findings indicate that half the sample (25/50) tested positive on the Audit-C for alcohol use disorder. Higher WHODAS total scores, for mTBI + BH group (32 27), indicated greater functional difficulty when compared to controls (9 10, ANOVA with post-hoc Tukey, P < 0.05). Persons in the BH and mTBI + BH groups had worse depression (BDI for BH = 13 6, for mTBI+BH = 17 9) and anxiety scores (BAI for BH = 12 7, for mTBI+BH = 13 9) relative to controls (BDI = 5 4, BAI = 2 2; ANOVA with post-hoc Tukey, P < 0.05). mTBI + BH with alcohol use disorder had less difficulty sleeping (ISI mean = 14 4) compared to Audit-C negative subjects in the same group (21 5, t-test, P < 0.05). Overall, alcohol use disorder is prevalent (50%) amongst veterans returning from the current conflicts. While this pilot analysis is not powered to detect significant between group differences, results suggest that abstracting a larger sample is warranted.

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.