Screening for Alcohol Misuse and Alcohol-Related Behaviors Among Combat Veterans

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ObjectiveThe U.S. military conducts health screenings of service members three to six months after they return from combat deployments. This population health program includes a modified version of the Two-Item Conjoint Screen (TICS), which is widely used in primary care to screen for alcohol misuse. Rates of referral in the military for alcohol treatment are very low, and the utility of these screening questions in predicting serious alcohol-related behaviors is unknown.MethodsAnonymous surveys were collected from 6,527 U.S. Army soldiers who were screened three to four months after returning from deployment to Iraq. Positive responses on the TICS alcohol screen were correlated with alcohol-related behaviors. Odds ratios (ORs) were calculated using logistic regression, after adjusting for gender, rank, race, and military component (active or reserve).ResultsTwenty-seven percent of soldiers screened positive for alcohol misuse. Compared with soldiers who screened negative, those who screened positive were more likely to have recently engaged in the following behaviors: drinking and driving (OR=4.99, 95% confidence interval [CI]=4.31–5.76), riding with a driver who had been drinking (OR=5.87, CI=4.99–6.91), reporting late or missing work because of a hangover (OR=9.24, CI=6.73–12.68), using illicit drugs (OR=4.97, CI=3.68–6.71), being referred to alcohol rehabilitation (OR=7.15, CI=4.84–10.58), and being convicted of driving under the influence (OR=4.84, CI=3.04–7.67).ConclusionsPositive responses to a two-item alcohol screening tool were strongly associated with serious alcohol-related behaviors. This study highlights the need to improve screening and access to care for alcohol-related problems among service members returning from combat deployments.

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