• Article

Alcohol use after forced abstinence in basic training among United States Navy and Air Force trainees

OBJECTIVE: The present study examined drinking rates of U.S. Navy and Air Force trainees during the month before attending basic training and after the ban on drinking alcohol was lifted during advanced training. METHOD: Surveys were obtained at five training bases (one U.S. Navy, four U.S. Air Force) from 6,298 persons for a response rate of 65%. Analyses were based on 4,962 young adults ages 18-25 (82% male) who gave valid responses about pre-basic drinking. RESULTS: Findings showed a rate of 43.1% heavy episodic drinking during the month before basic training, 15.8% by infrequent heavy episodic drinkers (five or more drinks per occasion at least once, four or more for women), and 27.3% by frequent heavy episodic drinkers (five or more drinks per occasion, four or more for women, at least once a week). Pre-basic frequent heavy episodic drinkers averaged 7.9 drinks per occasion and nearly 15 heavy episodic drinking days during the month. In contrast, heavy episodic drinking following basic training was substantially lower: 12.0% for infrequent heavy episodic drinkers and 9.0% for frequent heavy episodic drinkers. Comparisons with the U.S. Department of Defense Health Related Behaviors Survey suggest that post-basic frequent heavy episodic drinking rates are likely to increase over time but not to pre-basic levels. Pre-basic infrequent and frequent heavy episodic drinkers were more likely than nondrinkers or non-heavy episodic drinkers to initiate or re-initiate frequent heavy episodic drinking. Frequent heavy episodic drinking after basic tended to occur 1-6 weeks after the ban on alcohol use was lifted. CONCLUSIONS: Selection and socialization help explain heavy episodic drinking of U.S Navy and U.S. Air Force trainees


Bray, R., Brown, J., Pemberton, M., Williams, J., Jones, S., & Vandermaas-Peeler, R. (2010). Alcohol use after forced abstinence in basic training among United States Navy and Air Force trainees. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 71(1), 15-22.