Longitudinal effects of military separation and mental health symptomatology on substance use among a cohort of reservists

Bonnie M. Vest, Rachel A. Hoopsick, D. Lynn Homish, Jessica A. Kulak, Gregory G. Homish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: The relationship between mental health and substance use among military populations is well-established, and evidence suggests these risks may be greater for those who have left the military. However, it is less clear what independent effects leaving the military may have on substance use behaviors. This study examined the longitudinal relationship between leaving the military and substance use outcomes (hazardous drinking, frequent heavy drinking, non-medical use of prescription drugs, illicit drug use) in a cohort of Reserve and National Guard (R/NG) soldiers. Further, we examined whether mental health symptoms moderate the relationship between leaving the military and substance use. Method: Analyses used data (N=485 soldiers) from the first four annual waves of Operation: SAFETY, an ongoing prospective cohort study of US Army R/NG soldiers and their spouses. We used generalized estimating equations (GEE) to examine the relationships between military status (former vs. current soldier) and substance use outcomes over four years. Lastly, we examined interactions between military status and mental health indicators (anxiety, anger, depression, and PTSD) on substance use over time. Results: After controlling for sex, age, race, years of military service, sleep problems, bodily pain, and substance use norms, being a former soldier, compared to a current soldier, was associated with greater odds of current illicit drug use (AOR: 2.86; 95 1.47, 5.57; p
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjsad.23-00160
JournalJournal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
DOIs
StateE-pub ahead of print - Feb 6 2024

Keywords

  • drug use
  • veterans
  • military
  • mental health

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