Combat Sets the Stage for Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Problems

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National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been exposed to combat conditions (death, horrific injuries, explosions) in Iraq and Afghanistan are significantly more likely to experience problems related to substance abuse such as, heavy weekend drinking, binge drinking and alcohol-related problems) than active duty personnel exposed to combat who are at an increased risk for binge drinking only. The results are disturbing in many contexts. One issue being the reliance on National Guard and Reserve units to enter into combat deployment and the return of these soldiers to civilian life without adequate assessment of the problems they may bring home or provide effective treatment intervention services to those individuals who show signs of difficulties at home. We know that suicide is high among certain returning groups. The other issues relate to the psychological preparation available to military personnel to cope with the real issues of war and the resources that we make available to help each soldier and their family adjust.

Clearly, the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are extracting a significant toll on the soldiers and their families. We know of the physical injuries and psychological risks which await combat veterans. We are slowly coming to grips with the multiple levels which are contained in both the physical injuries and the psychological risks. These problems will be brought home and will be with the returning veterans for many years. We need to press for real solutions and deliver the solutions in a timely and relevant fashion.

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