Substance Abuse Among Military is Public Health Crisis, Report Says

Substance abuse among members of the U.S. military and their families has become a public health crisis, according to a new report. The Defense Department’s approaches to preventing and treating substance abuse are outdated, the report states.

The Institute of Medicine report, which was requested by the Defense Department, found about 20 percent of active duty service members say they engaged in heavy drinking in 2008, the latest year for which data is available. The Associated Press reports binge drinking increased from 35 percent in 1998, to 47 percent a decade later.

The report also found the rate of prescription drug abuse is on the rise. In 2002, an estimated 2 percent of active-duty personnel said they misused prescription drugs, compared with 11 percent in 2008.

“We commend the steps that the Department of Defense and individual service branches have recently taken to improve prevention and care for substance use disorders, but the armed forces face many ongoing challenges,” Charles P. O’Brien of the University of Pennsylvania, who chaired the committee that wrote the report, said in a news release. “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. This report recommends solutions to address each of these concerns.”

O’Brien said military doctors tend to be reluctant to prescribe medications to treat addiction. “Modern treatment of substance abuse does involve medications. There are FDA-approved, effective medications that could be used and should be used much more than they are,” he said.

He added that the military tends to rely too much on hospitalization and in-patient rehabilitation, instead of outpatient treatment. The report also called for updated training for military counselors.

The report recommended integrating prevention and treatment efforts more into primary health care, to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help for substance abuse. The military also should do more to preserve the confidentiality of those seeking assistance, the report noted.

    User Picture

    Dick B.

    September 18, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    Congratulations on this article regarding the drinking problems in the military AND among the veterans. As one who is focused on why early A.A. succeeded, and who has sponsored many men who have a military and then a vet background, I’ll put in a plea for recognition of the role God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible have played in recovery. Originally, folks recognized that alcoholics were “medically incurable.” For that malady, Christian organizations like the YMCA, rescue missions, Salvation Army, and early A.A. emphasized the need for God’s help. Let’s view A.A. History as a success factor instead of a past to be shelved. And we start with two approaches–the Bible and AA; and Let the doctors and the hospitals play their role. But remember the long history of success by one believing drunk helping another to believe and succeed. God Bless, Dick B.

Leave a Comment

Please leave a comment below to contribute to the discussion. If you have a specific question, please contact a Parent Specialist, who will provide you with one-on-one help.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *