BOSTON — Does early adolescent binge drinking (BD) increases the risk for and/or severity of psychopathology in post-9/11 veterans, and how does mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) affect the risk?

Those were the questions asked in a recent article published in the journal Alcohol & Alcoholism.1

VA Boston Healthcare System-led researchers classified 375 post-9/11 veterans into two groups: 57 veterans with a history of early adolescent BD (E-BD; age of onset <15) and 318 who did not binge drink until age 15 or older (late-BD or L-BD; age of onset ≥15).

The study team also assessed history of military mTBI and mental health disorders following military service.

Analyses revealed that the E-BD’s had significantly higher prevalence of alcohol use disorders (AUDs) and more severe symptoms of AUD, substance use disorder (SUD), depression and stress, according to the report.

Researchers said their evaluation indicated that history of military mTBI was differentially associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) incidence and severity among veterans who had engaged in early adolescent BD.

“Specifically, veterans with a history of both early adolescent BD and military mTBI were at greater risk for a PTSD diagnosis and had more severe symptoms of PTSD than those with only a history of adolescent BD,” the authors wrote. “The greater PTSD symptom severity in the comorbid group was driven by hyperarousal symptoms.”

Researchers concluded that a history of binge drinking during early adolescence is prevalent among veterans and is related to higher risk for alcohol use disorder, as well as more severe AUD, SUD, mood and stress symptoms later in life, adding, “Veterans with early BD and military mTBI showed greater incidence and severity of PTSD, indicating that mTBI, a common comorbidity among post-9/11 veterans, exacerbates risk.”


  1. Fortier CB, Whitworth JW, Fonda JR, et al. Early Adolescent Binge Drinking Increases Risk of Psychopathology in Post-9/11 Veterans and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Exacerbates Symptom Severity [published online ahead of print, 2020 Aug 10]. Alcohol Alcohol. 2020;agaa075. doi:10.1093/alcalc/agaa075