Associations Among Back and Extremity Pain With Alcohol, Tobacco, and Caffeine Use Among US Air Force Pararescuemen

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Bryan CJ, Wolfe AL, Morrow CE, Stephenson JA, Haskell J, Bryan AO 15(3). 66 - 71 (Journal Article)

Background: Caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol are the most widely used substances globally, but the majority of research on the associations among legal substance use and physical health has focused on the general population, not elite military personnel. The purpose of the current study was to describe patterns of tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine use and to examine the relationship of legal substance use with self-reported physical health complaints among US Air Force Pararescuemen (PJs) and Combat Rescue Officers (CROs). Methods: Participants were 196 US PJs and CROs. Participants completed self-report measures of legal drug use and somatic symptoms. Generalized linear modeling with robust maximum likelihood estimation was used for multivariate regression analyses. Chi-square analyses were conducted for univariate comparisons of categorical variables. Results: Reported rates of tobacco use (28.2%), alcohol consumption (83.2%), and regular caffeine consumption (88.8%) were similar to the general population. Daily caffeine intake was significantly higher among participants reporting they were bothered a lot by back pain [Wald χ²(2) = 11.39; ρ = .003] and extremity pain [Wald χ²(2) = 11.39; ρ = .003], even when controlling for age and deployment history. Participants with severe extremity pain also reported drinking approximately twice as many alcoholic beverages per week (mean, 5.46; standard error [SE], 0.91) than participants who were bothered a little (mean, 2.88; SE, 0.54) or not bothered at all (mean, 2.88; SE, 0.52) by extremity pain. Conclusion: Back and extremity pain is associated with greater caffeine and alcohol consumption among PJs.

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