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Note: The following news story was written as part of my Medical Journalism module at Westminster University. The story was sourced by myself, and is an exclusive. Feel free to comment.

US soldiers who develop alcohol problems when returning from war are not being given the support they need, a new study reveals.

Image courtesy of stockxchng

Figures from the US-based Walter Reed Army Institute of Research have show that at three-four months post-deployment, 25 per cent of soldiers serving in Iraq have screened positive for alcohol abuse. Some 17 per cent reported being late for work following the misuse of alcohol, while four per cent admitted to driving under the influence.

Dr Joshua E. Wink, who led the study, said that ‘Battlemind training,’ a US army support programme for soldiers returning from war is not enough:

“While Battlemind has been validated for a number of positive mental health outcomes, it has not been validated for reducing rates of alcohol misuse. Results from this study could be used to enhance existing reintegration training, such as Battlemind. Greater awareness can lead to better monitoring by unit leaders or peers.”

US army

Some 1120 US soldiers were surveyed regarding their experiences in combat; those who screened positive for alcohol misuse had more military experience than those who tested negative. Mental health problems – such as symptoms of PTSD and anxiety disorder- were also higher in those who tested positive. Alcohol misuse was measured using a two-item alcohol screen combined with an alcohol-related questionnaire. Alcohol rates among soldiers were higher than a similar survey taken in 2007.

Mr Wink said: “There had been little work done examining the association of specific combat experiences with later alcohol misuse. Many have looked at the anatomy of war zone stress and its role in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but not alcohol use disorders.”

Official figures from the US army state that 9,200 soldiers sought treatment for alcohol abuse in 2009, a 56 percent increase since the war in Iraq started in 2003. Today marks the beginning of Alcohol Awareness Month in the US.

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