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Far greater numbers of U.S. Army soldiers are dealing with significant drinking problems, according to a new report, USA Today reported June 18.
The number of soldiers diagnosed with alcoholism or alcohol abuse has almost doubled since 2003, positive tests for drug or alcohol use also increased 12 percent from 2005 to 2008.
Army officials said that repeated and extended deployments to combat areas may be to blame. “I'm sure there are many factors for the rising numbers (of enrollments) … but I can't believe the stress our people are under after eight years of combat isn't taking a toll,” Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.
Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, issued a memo in May urging officers to treat — and punish when appropriate — solders who fail blood-alcohol tests. Chiarelli said he found hundreds of cases where soldiers had failed tests — sometimes more than once — and were still not being treated for their addictions.
More soldiers are seeking help, according to Lt. Col. George Wright, an Army spokesman, but it also is possible that the scope of the Army's drinking problem is underestimated. A 2007 Pentagon study showed that many soldiers refrain from seeking treatment because the Army requires that the soldier's commanding officer be notified.