Drug and Alcohol Problems in the Military
Alcohol and drug abuse has become a part of military culture. Both the US and the UK are struggling with this issue but a new report from the Pentagon finds that substance abuse by military personnel and their families as become a public health crisis.
According to the numbers released by the US Defense Department, about 20% of active-duty service members took part in heavy drinking during 2008, which was the latest year data was available for. Between 1998 and 2008, binge drinking also rose by 12%.
The numbers are similar in the British Armed Forces, where the Ministry of Defence has found 13% of military personnel have a “drink problem”. That is more than double the 6% of problem drinkers in the UK general public. As well as an alcohol problem, both militaries are struggling with a growing drug addiction.
In the US Military, illicit and prescription drug abuse are low but medication misuse rose at an average 1.8% per-year between 2002 and 2008. In the UK over the last 3 years, nearly 1,500 military personnel have failed a drug test. In the Royal Air force alone, the number of drug cases reported has tripled since 2009. Despite this, the Royal Army has the highest incidence of drug use with 1,286 soldiers testing positive for at least one illegal substance.
The Study commissioned by the US Defense Department concluded that much of the drug and alcohol abuse in the US Military is due to ineffective military measures. "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.Continued on the next page