Substance Use Disorders & Soldiers

Research Paper Title

Substance Use and Substance Use Disorders in Recently Deployed and Never Deployed Soldiers.


Military studies investigating the prevalence of substance use (SU) and substance use disorders (SUD) and the relation between SU and mental disorders often lack a comprehensive assessment of SU, SUD and mental disorders and comparable groups of deployed and non-deployed personnel. There is also limited data regarding SU and SUD in the German military to date.


Cross-sectional examination of n=1483 soldiers recently deployed in Afghanistan and 889 never deployed soldiers using a fully-standardised diagnostic interview (MI-CIDI) including a comprehensive substance section.


Across both groups, 12-months prevalence of DSM-IV alcohol use disorders was 3.1%, 36.9% reported binge drinking, 13.9% heavy drinking, 1.3% illegal drug use. 55.1% were regular smokers, 10.9% nicotine dependent. Although recently deployed soldiers revealed slightly higher rates in some measures, there were no significant differences to the never deployed regarding SU und SUD except that recently deployed soldiers smoked more cigarettes per day. The association of SU with mental mental disorders was substantially different though, revealing significant associations between SU and mental disorders only among recently deployed soldiers.


The researchers did not find remarkable differences in the prevalence of SU and SUD between recently deployed and never deployed soldiers. Especially binge drinking and regular smoking were prevalent across both samples indicating needs for improved interventions. The finding that SU and mental disorders are only associated in recently deployed soldiers might have implications for improved screening and prevention and suggests that deployment might promote different pathways and mechanisms involved in the evolution of SU and mental disorders.


Trautmann, S., Schonfeld, S., Behrendt, S., Hofler, M., Zimmermann, P. & Wittchen, H.U. (2014) Substance Use and Substance Use Disorders in Recently Deployed and Never Deployed Soldiers. 134, pp.128-135.


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