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National Guard soldiers who do not have a history of alcohol abuse have a significant risk of developing alcohol-related problems while they are deployed and afterwards, a new study suggests.

Soldiers who are at the highest risk of developing alcohol-related problems also are at risk of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and/or depression while or after they are deployed, reports.

The article notes that while it is known that alcohol-related problems are common in the military, few studies have examined how PTSD and depression affect the risk of alcohol abuse.

Researchers at Columbia University examined data from 963 soldiers in the Ohio Army National Guard who said they had not abused alcohol prior to their active duty. The study found 113 soldiers, or 11.7 percent, reported an alcohol abuse disorder that first occurred while they were deployed or afterwards. Among these soldiers, 31 percent also reported depression, 20 percent reported PTSD, and 13 percent reported both, the researchers write in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Among soldiers who developed alcohol abuse problems during and after deployment, 97 percent were male, 74 percent were younger than 35 years old, and 45 percent were single.

“A novel finding of our study is that developing depression or PTSD during or after deployment were strong risk factors for having alcohol problems during the same time period,” researcher Brandon Marshall, PhD said in a news release. He noted that because new cases of alcohol abuse were most common among soldiers who experienced depression and PTSD, it is possible that these soldiers self-medicate with alcohol to cope with negative feelings and the stress of deployment.

“The high prevalence of alcohol abuse during and after deployment observed here suggests that policies that promote improved access to care and confidentiality merit strong consideration,” he added.

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