Substance Abuse In The Military Is A ‘Public Health Crisis,’ Study Finds

Bob Brewin | Nextgov | September 17, 2012

Drug and alcohol abuse by military personnel and their families constitutes a “public health crisis” that requires the intervention of senior leaders to develop consistent and cohesive prevention, screening, and treatment services, the Institute of Medicine charged in a report released today.

The report sharply criticized U.S. Central Command policies that provide troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq with up to a six-month supply of potentially addictive prescription drugs and an Army policy that shifted management of substance abuse treatment from the Medical Command to the Human Resources Directorate. The investigators also blasted the Pentagon’s decision to outsource residential treatment programs funded by TRICARE insurance -- the medical care program for military troops, retirees and their families.

Alcohol and drug use in the military remain “unacceptably high,” the reported noted, as nearly half of all personnel acknowledged binge drinking in 2008 and illegal drug use soared from 5 percent in 2005 to 12 percent in 2008. IOM’s findings are detailed in its 352-page report, “Substance Abuse Disorders in the U.S. Armed Forces,” which was prepared at the Pentagon’s request.