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UW Study: Phone-Based Alcohol Abuse Intervention For Soldiers Shows Promising Results

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United States Marine Corps
Post-traumatic stress diagnoses and prescriptions for common antidepressants are on the rise at Madigan Army Medical Center.

Researchers at the University of Washington say they may have found one way to get soldiers suffering from alcohol abuse the help they need.

A heavy drinking culture combined with the stress of deployment can mean a high rate of alcohol abuse among military members. 

Denise Walker is the director of the Innovative Programs Research Group at the UW School of Social Work. She's also the principal author on a recent study that looks at phone-based alcohol abuse intervention for soldiers.

"They aren't walking into the army substance abuse programs voluntarily because they're worried it may affect their career in a negative way," she said.

Walker's team blanketed Joint Base Lewis-McChord with flyers that featured a phone number. A soldier could call and schedule one more call known as an "intervention session."

Those single sessions yielded promising results. After six months, soldiers cut their average number of drinks per week nearly in half, from 32 drinks to 14 drinks.

Walker says there seem to be two reasons this approach was effective. First, unlike traditional substance abuse programs, these sessions were confidential and the soldiers' commanding officers were not notified.

Second, the type of counseling the soldiers got was less about advice and education and more about talking with soldiers about how their alcohol use fits into the rest of their lives.

"It's really trying to elicit the soldier's own ideas about their use and using that personal conversation to help steer motivation towards making healthier choices," Walker said.

A Seattle native and former knkx intern, Simone Alicea has returned to the Pacific Northwest from covering breaking news at the Chicago Sun-Times. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.