Participation in the fighting led the reservists to abuse alcohol

(ORDO NEWS) — According to the author of the work, his results are important for understanding the relationship of trauma with excessive alcohol consumption and the prevention of such unhealthy behavior among male combat survivors.

The fact that men after active military service try to find solace and salvation from negative emotions in alcohol has long been known. However, a new study by James Griffith of the University of Utah (USA) has confirmed that reservists who returned home and were sent to the battlefield have a particular propensity for alcoholism.

“Soldiers see wounded and dead civilians, combatants either wounded themselves or killed someone. Such events cause negative emotions (guilt, remorse, sadness), which often manifest as symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD, characterized by low self-esteem, a sense of hopelessness).

One explanation for the unhealthy use of alcohol is that it “calms” the person. For ex-combatants, drinking, due to its physiologically depressing effect, can reduce the subjective feeling of negative emotions and thus provide psychological support.

This assumption underlies the “self-medication hypothesis”, according to which the association of a traumatic event and an increased risk of alcohol consumption is mediated by the occurrence of negative emotional states.

For the analysis, the scientist used data from 4,567 reservists from 50 units of the US National Guard who took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom in the 2000s, in which up to 49 countries were involved at different times. In the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, reservists made up 30% to 40% of the United States ground forces.

They completed an anonymous survey that included 80 questions about alcohol and drug use, experiences, symptoms of psychological stress (anger, frustration, sleep problems, anxious thoughts), suicidal tendencies, and interpersonal relationships.

They also reported whether they took a direct part in the battle, wounded or killed someone, saw someone wounded, killed or dead, or lost a close comrade. The responses of the reservists who survived the fighting were compared with the responses of the active military, as well as with the results of similar studies.

As it turned out, soldiers who had recently returned from the war drank heavily and fell into hard drinking more often than professional soldiers (29.9% vs. 24.1% and 33.9% vs. 31.8%, respectively). The risk of alcohol abuse was found to be particularly high in the first year after returning from combat and in soldiers with a longer service life.

As for the specific events in the war that could push the reservists to drink, the presence of an injury and direct participation in hostilities most of all influenced. Watching someone get hurt or killed, or kill or injure someone yourself, was also associated with drinking, but to a lesser extent.

“At home, reservists resume part-time service, civilian life and work. Unlike military personnel on active duty, they generally do not live near military installations and do not receive mental health care.

Many of them are not eligible for military medical care, unless the conditions are related to active military service, ”the author of the work explained.

In his opinion, the results are consistent with the so-called self-medication hypothesis, so special attention should be paid to the emotional state of men with combat experience, because they are especially at risk of alcoholism.

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