While the American military has a history of alcohol and drug abuse, the issue has evolved due to an increasing amount of prescription drugs being made available, according to The New York Times.
The Department of Defense (DoD) asked the Institute of Medicine to analyze programs and policies currently in place that pertain to all steps of abuse. These include prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment of substance use disorders.
The results showed that 20 percent of active-duty military personnel reported heavy drinking in 2008 – the latest year for which data was available. Additionally, reports of binge drinking increased from 35 percent in 1998 to 47 percent in 2008.
The report went on to show that opioid pain killers have shown a sharp increase. In 2008, 11 percent of active-duty military members reported using the drugs, which is up from 2 percent in 2002.
"While services are available through military treatment facilities for active duty service members, the number of patients treated is below epidemiological expectations," the report says. "Barriers to care apparently inhibit use of these services. These barriers include the structure and location of the services, a reliance on residential care, and stigma that inhibits help-seeking behavior early on."
The panel went on to say that the military needs to do a better job curbing the stigma that surrounds seeking help for substance abuse.
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