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Substance Use, Trauma May Increase Veterans’ Risk of Alcohol Use Disorder

July 20, 2020

Lifetime drug use disorder, greater alcohol use at baseline, and trauma-related characteristics were independently associated with developing alcohol use disorder within 7 years of follow-up in US military veterans, according to a study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors. 

With veterans already at increased risk of alcohol use disorder compared with civilians, researchers conducted the study to identify factors that heighten risk among veterans even further. The study included 1770 veterans from a nationally representative sample who did not meet criteria for alcohol use disorder at baseline and who completed at least one follow-up assessment over a 7-year period. 

Among the veterans in the study, 5.9% went on to develop alcohol use disorder within 7 years. Adult sexual trauma, greater severity of anxious arousal symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), lifetime history of drug and nicotine use disorders, and higher alcohol consumption were each associated with incident alcohol use disorder, researchers found.

Lifetime drug use disorder and higher alcohol consumption explained the most variance in incident alcohol use disorder, according to the study, at 75.9% and 22.1%, respectively.  

“Future research should examine whether treatment of drug use disorder and PTSD symptoms in at-risk veterans may help mitigate risk of developing alcohol use disorder in this population,” researchers advised. 

Jolynn Tumolo


Straus E, Norman SB, Pietrzak RH. Determinants of new-onset alcohol use disorder in U.S. military veterans: Results from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study. Addict Behav. 2020;105:106313. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2020.106313

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