Military Drinking a 'Public Health Crisis'

New study finds 20% of troops drank heavily in 2008
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 18, 2012 6:56 AM CDT
A soldier drinks one of two allotted beers at a dining facility while soldiers gather to watch Super Bowl XLIII at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 2, 2009.   (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

(Newser) – Substance abuse in the US military has escalated to the point that it is now a "public health crisis," according to a new report. The Defense Department requested the analysis by the Institute of Medicine, which found that:

  • Around 20% of active-duty troops said they drank heavily in 2008 (five or more drinks per day, on a regular basis).
  • Nearly half—47%—engaged in binge drinking in 2008 (five or more drinks per sitting for men, four or more for women, but not on a regular basis). That's up from 35% in 1998.
  • Drug abuse is not nearly as rampant as alcohol abuse, but it is still on the rise. In 2002, just 2% said they abused prescription drugs; that rose to 11% in 2008.

The report also found that the Pentagon has not successfully adapted its "old-fashioned" methods for dealing with substance abuse problems—which have been an issue for the military since the Revolutionary War. "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," says the study committee chair, who adds that the Defense Department needs to start using medication more often, update its counselor training, and rely more on outpatient care. Read more from the AP. (Read more US military stories.)

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