Increased risk of alcohol and drug use among children from deployed military families

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Abstract

Aims

To examine the association between military deployment of a parent and use of alcohol and drugs among children of deployed military personnel.

Design

Observational and cross-sectional study.

Setting

Data from the USA 2010 Iowa Youth Survey, a statewide survey of 6th, 8th and 11th graders, were analyzed during 2011.

Participants

Of all 6th-, 8th- and 11th-grade students enrolled in Iowa in 2010, 69% (n = 78 240) completed the survey.

Measurements

Ever drink more than a few sips of alcohol and past 30-day: binge drinking, marijuana consumption, other illegal drug use and prescription drug misuse.

Findings

The rates of alcohol use [risk difference (RD) = 7.85, 99.91% confidence interval (CI) = 4.44–11.26], binge drinking (RD = 8.02, 99.91% CI = 4.91–11.13), marijuana use (RD = 5.30, 99.91% CI = 2.83–7.77), other illegal drug use (RD = 7.10, 99.91% CI = 4.63–9.56) and prescription drug misuse (RD = 8.58, 99.91% CI = 5.64–11.51) are greater for children of currently or recently deployed parents than for children of parents who are not in the military. The magnitude of the effects is consistent across 6th, 8th and 11th grades. Disrupted living arrangements further accentuate increased substance use, with the largest effect seen in children with a deployed parent who was not living with a parent or relative.

Conclusions

Children of deployed military personnel should be considered at higher risk for substance use than children of non-military citizens.

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