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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Playing "catch-up" - Culture Evolves To Crisis In Military Alcohol And Drug Abuse

English: Seal of the United States Department ...
Seal of the United States Department of Defense (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Playing "catch-up"

How do you play catch-up? We have all experienced getting behind in our work, our school assignments, our own health, our chores, or correspondence with our loved ones. We even see the phenomena of playing catch-up with sports teams (from professional teams all the way to Little League or Pop Warner), suddenly the team realizes that they haven't been practicing enough or practicing smart, they haven't applied new techniques for nutrition, exercise, or even getting enough good sleep. The truth is we all play catch-up, but sometimes not staying ahead of the game of life can cause a crisis.

New report indicates the Department of Defense needs to catch-up

The United States Department of Defense (DoD) requested the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to study alcohol and drug abuse among the military. The DoD asked the IOM "to analyze policies and programs that pertain to prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment of substance use disorders for active duty service members in all branches, members of the National Guard and Reserve, and military families." The IOM's study concludes that what was once considered part of the military "culture" has now evolved into a military "crisis." 

Key findings from the report "Substance Use Disorder in the U.S. Armed Forces"

A Huffington Post article (September 17, 2012) highlights key findings:

  • About 20 percent of active-duty service members reported they engaged in heavy drinking in 2008, the latest year for which data was available. (Heavy drinking was defined as five or more drinks a day as a regular practice.) 
  • Binge-drinking increased from 35 percent in 1998 to 47 percent in 2008. (That's five or more drinks at a sitting for men, four or more for women, but done perhaps just once or twice a month as opposed to each week). 
  • While rates of both illicit and prescription drug abuse are low, the rate of medication misuse is rising. Just 2 percent of active-duty personnel reported misusing prescription drugs in 2002 compared with 11 percent in 2008. 
  • The armed forces' programs and policies have not evolved to effectively address medication misuse and abuse. 

Recommendations for dealing with the "crisis" - how to "catch-up"

Alcohol and drug use and abuse has been part of the military culture for centuries. But it would seem that we have not allowed prevention and treatment protocols to evolve with the times. The problem is complicated by such things as lack of coverage for new types of services and treatment and, of course, working on dispelling the stigma attached to the disease of addiction and seeking treatment for same. The Department of Defense will need to look at approving new effective medications used to treat substance abuse, covering treatment in outpatient treatment facilities, training more counselors for military personnel (particularly those counselors that work with active duty military), and work to "de-stigmatize" seeking counseling and treatment for substance abuse.

A Huffington Post video report on playing "catch-up"

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Staying abreast of new treatment modalities and learning how to recognize when someone is suffering from the disease of addiction are critical in saving lives, families, and careers. Addiction, while a chronic disease, can be treated and recovery is possible.
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