Postdeployment alcohol use, aggression, and post-traumatic stress disorder
Current military personnel are at risk of developing serious mental health problems, including chronic stress disorders and substance use disorders, as a result of military deployment. The most frequently studied effect of combat exposure is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). High-risk behaviors, including alcohol use and aggression, have been associated with PTSD, but the optimal cutoff score on the PTSD Checklist (PCL) for determining the risk for these behaviors has not been clearly delineated. Using postdeployment active duty (AD) and Reserve component military personnel, the relation between various cutoff scores on the PCL and engaging in high-risk behaviors was examined. AD personnel, for every outcome examined, showed significantly greater odds for each problem behavior when PCL scores were 30 or higher compared to those with PCL scores in the 17 to 29 range. A similar pattern was shown for Reserve component personnel with respect to several problem behaviors, although not for alcohol use behaviors. The differences in problem behaviors for these two populations may be an indication that deployment experiences and combat exposure affect them differently and suggest that despite lower critical PCL scores, AD personnel may be at higher risk for developing problems as a function of the deployment cycle.