Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Troops Need Better Help for Substance Use

Use of alcohol and other drugs among U.S. military service members remains “unacceptably high” and could harm force readiness and psychological fitness, according to an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report.

Binge drinking and other heavy use of alcohol have increased since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the IOM noted, and prescriptions by military doctors for pain medications quadrupled to 3.8 million from 2001 to 2009.

TRICARE, the DoD’s civilian health care contractor, relies too much on inpatient substance abuse rehabilitation treatment and underutilizes outpatient services, thanks to congressionally mandated regulations, said panel members.

“[T]he highest levels of military leadership must acknowledge these alarming facts and combat them using an arsenal of public-health strategies, including proactively attacking substance use problems before they begin by limiting access to certain medications and alcohol,” concluded the IOM panel, chaired by Charles O’Brien, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and director at the University of Pennsylvania.

For more in Psychiatric News about the IOM report, click here.
(Image: Oleg Zabielin/


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