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Medical News & Perspectives |

Treatment of Substance Abuse in Military Hampered by “Old-fashioned” Approach

Bridget M. Kuehn, MSJ
JAMA. 2012;308(18):1845-1846. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.13704.
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To combat emerging substance use problems among military personnel and veterans, the Department of Defense (DOD) must abandon outdated treatment practices, strengthen its clinician workforce, and promote early treatment through screening and confidential care, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) (http://tinyurl.com/cqngzkz).

Substance use disorders have long been a major concern for the military, as personnel grapple with the stresses of deployments and the physical and psychological traumas of war. But recent anecdotal reports and data suggest that risky alcohol consumption and prescription drug abuse have increased substantially in the military over the past decade. Nearly half of the service men and women surveyed in 2008 reported binge drinking (defined as drinking 5 or more drinks on the same occasion) in the past month, compared with 35% in 1998, according to data from the DOD Surveys of Health Related Behaviors among Military Personnel. Additionally, reported misuse of opioid pain medications has increased from 2% in 2002 to 11% in 2008.

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Despite elevated rates of heavy drinking and other substance use problems in the military in recent years, the military's system for treating such problems is outdated, an Institute of Medicine report found.

(Photo credit: Samuel King Jr/US Air Force)

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