Drug use in the military became well-known as far back as the Vietnam War. While a few of the soldiers smoked marijuana in the jungles of Cambodia things seem to have gotten much worse lately – especially with respect to alcohol.
Rising rates of alcohol and prescription drug use among the nation’s armed forces have become a public health crisis. It has gotten to the point where it could negatively affect service members’ abilities to perform their duties. As reported in www.ama-assn.org.
According to a recent report, in 2008, 47% of active duty personnel reported binge drinking at least once in the previous month, up from 35% in 1998. Between 2002 and 2008, misuse of prescription medication in the past 30 days increased from 2% to 11% of active service members.
One of the primary problems are soldiers avoiding care for substance-use disorders due, in part, to concerns about being penalized, and limited training in addiction and psychiatry among physicians who care for patients with substance abuse problems.
What is needed is better screening of patients once they are inside doctors’ offices. Military doctors should screen service members at least once a year for unhealthy alcohol use and talk to those whose behaviors seem indicative of substance-use disorder about the risks of excessive alcohol consumption.
Our service members deserve better treatment. The stress they come under is tremendous and we owe it to them to help keep them clean. Perhaps we should offer them 8 hour alcohol awareness classes and 8 hour drug classes at least annually too. What do you think?