Drugs in the Military
In December I posted about drugs in prison. Unfortunately, drug use is a problem in our armed services as well. As the U.S. marked the end of the war in Iraq in December, experts mentioned the monetary and human price we paid. But in addition to the number of soldiers killed and maimed, there’s another cost of war that wasn’t mentioned in that tally: the number of soldiers who became addicted and/or got into legal trouble related to drugs. As far back as 2005, the website www.military.com, the online version of the military publication “Stars & Stripes,” reported that military investigators had arrested a soldier for selling cocaine in Iraq. Other drugs were a bigger problem, however.
“What’s more common are soldiers who sneak liquor, marijuana, Valium, hashish and a variety of prescription drugs, such as Ritalin, onto base and pass it along to friends,” said Lt. Col. John Dunlap, the top military prosecutor for the 256th Brigade Combat Team, a National Guard unit from Louisiana, at the time.
The Lt. Col. said that he and others aggressively prosecute drug possession. I assume that’s mostly to protect the troops — there’s too much at stake to allow a soldier to use drugs. He added that service personnel “who come forward and admit they have a problem typically face little or no punishment and are given counseling and medical treatment.”
A headline in “The Arkansas Democrat Gazette” that year was “Drugs, Booze Easy For GIs to Get in Iraq.” The article itself listed case after case of soldiers engaging in substance abuse in Iraq.
Take a group of (mostly) men far from home, have them fight a war — a life and death situation – and many of them are bound to get into trouble with drugs and booze. How many soldiers came home from Vietnam addicted?
As if anyone needed proof that servicemen and women that are deployed have a higher rate of drug use than their counterparts at home, the figures are backed up by a Department of Defense report, according to a website called Albuquerque Rehabs. The stress and harrowing experiences of war can also lead to “self-medication of mental health issues” requiring dual diagnosis support for these service personnel when they return home.
Why is none of this surprising? And how can we do a better job at preventing it from happening?