Study: Substance Abuse Among Troops A “Public Health Crisis”

WASHINGTON (September 17, 2012)-- new study by the Institute of Medicine finds that substance abuse among troops has become a "public health crisis" and says Pentagon methods for dealing with it are outdated.

The study by the institute, which is part of the National Academy of Sciences, found that about 20 percent of active duty service members reported they drank heavily in 2008, the last year for which data is available, and, binge-drinking rose to 47 percent in 2008 from 35 percent in 1998.

"We commend the steps that the Department of Defense and individual service branches have recently taken to improve prevention and care for substance use disorders, but the armed forces face many ongoing challenges," said Charles P. O'Brien, Kenneth Appel Professor and vice chair, department of psychiatry, and director, Center for Studies of Addiction, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and chair of the committee that wrote the report.

"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. This report recommends solutions to address each of these concerns,” he said.

The study says new methods are needed to help troops including better-trained counselors and more outpatient care as opposed to relying so heavily on hospitalizations and residential programs.

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