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Alcohol use disorder and drinking age on US military bases

Wallace AE, Weeks WB. Alcohol use disorder and drinking age on US military bases. Paper presented at: Addiction Health Services Research Conference; 2006 Oct 23; Little Rock, AR.




Abstract:

Prior to 1982, soldiers used alcohol legally on US military bases, regardless of their age. In 1982, the U.S. military established that the drinking age on military bases would correspond to that of the state in which the base was located. By 1984, threatened by loss of highway funds, every state had raised the legal drinking age to 21 years, thereby establishing a common drinking age for the entire military population stationed in the U.S. We wanted to determine whether raising the drinking age was associated with reductions in alcohol use disorder (AUD) treatment episodes among younger veterans compared with older veterans and same aged civilians. From the U.S. Department of Health's Treatment Episode Data Set, we obtained numbers of AUD-related treatment episodes from years 1992 to 2003 for male veterans and civilians in four 5-year age cohorts from 25-44 years. Using U.S. Census population figures over the same time period, we calculated rates of AUD treatment episodes for male veterans and civilians. Using male civilian treatment episode rates for each age cohort as referent groups, we calculated odds ratios for age-matched male veteran AUD treatment episodes during the time period studied. Across the years examined and compared to civilian treatment rates, male veterans experienced significant reductions in AUD treatment episodes. Greater exposure to the higher drinking age was associated with more dramatic reductions in AUD treatment episodes. Increasing the legal drinking age to 21-years in the context of the supervised military setting was associated with a reduction in later AUD treatment episodes. Policymakers should consider the potential downstream economic and societal costs of developing and treating AUDs before reversing the current drinking age limit. Further, organizations with supervised environments such as college campuses might follow the military's lead and exert pressure against and institute meaningful consequences to underage drinking.;AbstractPrior to 1982, soldiers used alcohol legally on US military bases, regardless of their age. In 1982, the U.S. military established that the drinking age on military bases would correspond to that of the state in which the base was located. By 1984, threatened by loss of highway funds, every state had raised the legal drinking age to 21 years, thereby establishing a common drinking age for the entire military population stationed in the U.S. We wanted to determine whether raising the drinking age was associated with reductions in alcohol use disorder (AUD) treatment episodes among younger veterans compared with older veterans and same aged civilians. From the U.S. Department of Health's Treatment Episode Data Set, we obtained numbers of AUD-related treatment episodes from years 1992 to 2003 for male veterans and civilians in four 5-year age cohorts from 25-44 years. Using U.S. Census population figures over the same time period, we calculated rates of AUD treatment episodes for male veterans and civilians. Using male civilian treatment episode rates for each age cohort as referent groups, we calculated odds ratios for age-matched male veteran AUD treatment episodes during the time period studied. Across the years examined and compared to civilian treatment rates, male veterans experienced significant reductions in AUD treatment episodes. Greater exposure to the higher drinking age was associated with more dramatic reductions in AUD treatment episodes. Increasing the legal drinking age to 21-years in the context of the supervised military setting was associated with a reduction in later AUD treatment episodes. Policymakers should consider the potential downstream economic and societal costs of developing and treating AUDs before reversing the current drinking age limit. Further, organizations with supervised environments such as college campuses might follow the military's lead and exert pressure against and institute meaningful consequences to underage drinking.





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