Alcohol use and misuse within the military: a review

Int Rev Psychiatry. 2011 Apr;23(2):166-72. doi: 10.3109/09540261.2010.550868.


Traditionally alcohol has been used by the military to cope with the intense stress of battle but also as a way of mediating the transition from the heightened experience of combat to routine safety. The use of alcohol has divided medical opinion. Some doctors viewed it as wholly harmful to both social and occupational function and to health, while others argued that alcohol had a specific role in lifting morale, aiding unit cohesion and protecting soldiers from adjustment disorders. Although alcoholism has always been identified as incompatible with military service, the effects of habitual heavy drinking among military personnel are less well understood. Recent studies have suggested that young single males and those who have undergone particularly stressful experiences are at greatest risk of misusing alcohol. These associations, observed in the aftermath of recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, have again raised questions about the place of alcohol in military culture.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Afghan Campaign 2001-
  • Age Factors
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011
  • Male
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology