Care after Combat

Reconnecting to the world after drink/drug treatment

The well-being of former serving members of the Armed Forces has been at the centre of policy and research for some time. There is evidence from clinical practice and academic research showing that veterans can encounter difficulties dealing with the impact of their service experience after leaving the forces as well as challenges moving from military life to civilian life.

Findings from Research:
  • Recent studies from both the US and UK have shown that high levels of alcohol misuse, alcohol related problems and binge drinking are common among military personnel.
  • Within the UK Armed Forces, prevalence rates of alcohol misuse of 13% have been reported.
  • The prevalence of alcohol related harm and alcohol dependence within the serving UK Armed Forces has been shown to be greater than in the UK general population.
  • Longitudinal studies of alcohol misuse in the UK military suggest that they continue to remain high.
  • Clear links have been demonstrated between alcohol consumption and negative impacts on well-being within military populations.
  • Alcohol has been linked to violent offending post-deployment.
  • Studies from the general population show that psychological effects of negative life events include alcohol misuse whereas, positive life events such as marriage are associated with a decrease in alcohol misuse.
  • Comorbid Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been shown to hinder recovery from alcohol related problems in veterans.
  • PTSD, psychological distress, smoking status and relationship change are associated with alcohol use.
  • The Ministry of Defence uses a NICE -approved alcohol misuse treatment programme, with in-patient detoxification.
  • Veterans can seek treatment from charities such as Alcoholics Anonymous and the Care after Combat/Burton Addiction Centre partnership.

The moderate consumption of alcohol for pleasure and relaxation undoubtedly has an important role in our society. The UK armed forces, like many other nations, have traditionally used alcohol as a means of mediating stress although cultural influences are likely to be further contributing factors. Evidence suggests that military personnel consume considerable amounts of alcohol which may have both medical and occupational implications. Studies of UK veterans found excessive alcohol consumption to be more common when compared to the general population (13% v 6%) even after taking age and gender differences into account. Such high levels of drinking are likely to have both short-term and long-term global health effects with a proportion of veterans eventually finding themselves involved in the Criminal Justice System.

A collaborative partnership between Care after Combat and the BAC O’Connor Centre provides a breakthrough in quality and service provision for ex-service personnel. By uniting the excellent skills and knowledge Care after Combat and the BAC O’Connor Centre have this partnership offers a unique step forward in Veteran healthcare. This union brings together recognition and help for Veteran specific issues and combines it with the ex-service persons need to integrate with services not military related. This approach enhances the ability of ex-service personnel to make the often-difficult adjustment from military life to civilian life. The first Veteran to benefit from this partnership said, “for the first time, in a very long time, I look forward to waking up in the morning”. The Care after Combat and BAC O’Connor partnership will provide an important, necessary and strategically valuable service for ex-service personnel who may still be ‘fighting for their lives’.

Dr Jane Jones, RMN - Care after Combat Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist: Clinical Lead, Program Director

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