More than a quarter of sailors and marines who were anonymously
surveyed within two weeks before their deployment admitted to binge
drinking regularly, and nearly 40 percent reported dangerous
drinking. A small but significant number also reported that they had
been drugged against their will.
Previous research has focused on the drinking habits of military
personnel while deployed or after returning home. Little is known
about drinking in the period before reporting for duty, the
researchers write in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
That period could be a time of higher stress and people may drink
more because they will not be able to drink while aboard ship, the
“This is a time of major transition away from family, friends and
important social support networks,” said coauthor Dr. Braden Hale,
program manager at the Department of Defense’s HIV/AIDS Prevention
Hale told Reuters Health by email that screening for alcohol abuse
before deployment could allow people to be identified and helped
The study team used data on 2,351 male and female shipboard
personnel collected between 2012 and 2014.
Participants gave anonymous reports about hazardous drinking,
including how often they drank and how often they had more than six
drinks at a time.
They also answered questions about alcohol dependency, including
physical cravings for it, and binge drinking, defined as having more
than four drinks for women and more than five for men during a
typical day of drinking.
The researchers also asked if participants had ever been “roofied,”
or had their drinks spiked.
Overall, 79 percent of the subjects were men and around 85 percent
were in the Navy. Just over 12 percent were under the age of 21.
Just under 39 percent of the sailors and marines reported hazardous
drinking before deployment. This was significantly higher for men,
at 40 percent, than for women, at 34 percent. Thirty-six percent of
those under age 21 had engaged in hazardous drinking.
Twenty-seven percent reported binge drinking. This too was more
common for men, at nearly 30 percent, than for women, at 20 percent.
[to top of second column]
Overall, close to 15 percent were dependent on alcohol: nearly 17
percent of men and 7 percent of women. Personnel between the ages of
17 and 20 were more likely to report being dependent on alcohol.
Few of the sailors and marines reported taking recreational drugs,
but 7 percent had been given a drug against their will. The
percentages were about equal between men and women.
“These findings confirm there is a culture of drinking, including
underage drinking, among Marines and Navy members that needs to be
addressed,” said Mary Jo Larson, a senior scientist at Brandeis
University’s Institute for Behavioral Health who studies military
“The consequences include injuries, fights, car crashes and unwanted
sexual contact, including rape,” said Larson, who was not involved
in the study.
Larson noted that commanding officers are notified when service
members seek treatment for drinking, which may discourage people who
need help from seeking it.
“The take away is that the Navy and Marines must establish
additional effective prevention programs, which send a strong
message that those that need medical help can receive it
confidentially,” she said by email.
In order to prevent short- and long-term harms from alcohol abuse,
Hale calls for “screening, intervention and care before deployment
for shipboard personnel who may be engaging in hazardous or
dependent alcohol use.”
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1WdtM30 American Journal of Preventive
Medicine, online April 7, 2016.
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.