Abusing alcohol and drugs has been part of military culture historically: troops do it for fun, to ease the stresses of war or to be part of the brotherhood.
But a new report says substance use and misuse among troops and their families has become a “public health crisis” and that Pentagon methods for dealing with it are out-of-date.
In a study requested by the Defense Department, the Institute of Medicine report Monday said:
– About 20 percent of active-duty service members reported they engaged in heavy drinking in 2008, the latest year for which data was available. (Heavy drinking was defined as five or more drinks a day as a regular practice.)
– Binge-drinking increased from 35 percent in 1998 to 47 percent in 2008. (That’s five or more drinks at a sitting for men, four or more for women, but done perhaps just once or twice a month as opposed to each week).
– While rates of both illicit and prescription drug abuse are low, the rate of medication misuse is rising. Just 2 percent of active-duty personnel reported misusing prescription drugs in 2002 compared with 11 percent in 2008.
– The armed forces’ programs and policies have not evolved to effectively address medication misuse and abuse.
“Better care for service members and their families is hampered by inadequate prevention strategies, staffing shortages, lack of coverage for services that are proved to work, and stigma associated with these disorders,” said Charles P. O’Brien of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Studies of Addiction and chairman of the study committee.
– Read the entire article at The Huffingtod Post.