Drinking to Cope with Posttraumatic Stress: A Nationally Representative Study of Men with and without Military Combat Experience.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

OBJECTIVE: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and hazardous alcohol use are prevalent among trauma survivors. Despite higher rates of both PTSD and hazardous alcohol use among military combat veterans than civilians, scant research has examined whether military combat experience is associated with drinking alcohol to cope with PTSD symptoms. This study tested the hypothesis that compared to trauma-exposed men without combat experience, men with military combat experience would be more likely to endorse drinking alcohol to cope with their PTSD symptoms. Methods: Interview data from N = 11,474 men who reported at least one lifetime traumatic experience were drawn from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a face-to-face interview study that recruited a nationally representative sample of adults living in the United States between 2004 and 2005. Results: Among men endorsing lifetime trauma exposure, men with military combat experience (n = 1,386) were more likely than men without combat experience (n = 10,088) to report drinking alcohol to cope (7.22 vs. 2.61% in unweighted analyses, 6.46 vs. 2.37% in weighted analyses). Total number of lifetime trauma types, lifetime PTSD severity, and lifetime alcohol abuse/dependence were significantly associated with drinking to cope in bivariate and multivariate analyses. Military combat experience was significantly associated with drinking to cope in multivariate analyses adjusting for lifetime PTSD diagnosis. Military combat experience was not significantly associated with drinking to cope in multivariate analyses adjusting for lifetime PTSD symptom count. Conclusions: Although military combat experience was significantly associated with drinking to cope in bivariate analyses, multivariate analyses yielded mixed findings: combat experience was significantly associated with drinking to cope in models adjusting for PTSD diagnosis, but not in models adjusting for PTSD symptom count. Findings highlight the importance of assessing and targeting PTSD symptom-related alcohol use, even in the absence of alcohol abuse/dependence. Results from this preliminary study could inform future research on drinking to cope with PTSD symptoms among military combat veterans and other trauma survivors.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Blakey, SM; Tsai, J; Elbogen, EB

Published Date

  • April 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 17 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 101 - 112

PubMed ID

  • 33730991

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1550-4271

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1080/15504263.2021.1891360

Language

  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States