Drinking to Cope Moderates the Efficacy of Changing Veteran Drinking Norms as a Strategy for Reducing Drinking and Alcohol-Related Problems Among U.S. Veterans

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Abstract

Heavy and problematic drinking is a concern among young adult military veterans. Personalized normative feedback (PNF) interventions that target normative misperceptions regarding drinking have been efficacious among young adults and have recently begun to be implemented among veteran populations in an effort to reduce heavy drinking. However, moderators of PNF intervention efficacy among veterans are largely unexplored. This study is a secondary data analysis that evaluated whether a PNF intervention would work better at reducing perceived norms, drinking, and alcohol-related problems specifically for young adult veterans who drink to cope with negative affect. Veterans of the United States (U.S.) military (86% male; Mean age = 28.9 years, SD = 3.4) were randomly assigned to receive either: 1) PNF comparing their drinking and perceived norms to actual drinking rates for same sex veterans; or 2) feedback about same sex veteran video game play (control condition). Seven hundred eighty-four individuals completed baseline and 622 completed 1-month follow-up assessments (79% follow-up), including measures of alcohol use, alcohol-related problems, and drinking motives. Moderated mediation analyses indicated that changes in normative misperceptions as a result of the intervention were more strongly associated with reductions in drinking and problems among veterans scoring higher on drinking to cope. These findings suggest that PNF may be an especially efficacious brief intervention for veterans who drink for coping reasons.

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