Individuals in the military experience an immense amount of stress due to the fact that they often face life or death situations. To cope with this immense amount of stress, many individuals in the military start to abuse substances.
Drug use in the military is a huge problem for individuals who are in active-duty. This is because it could cause issues within a military unit and disrupt the coherence that military individuals need in order to make decisions that will keep them and their fellow military personnel alive and safe. Since drug use in the military is such a huge problem, it’s important to combat it by having military substance abuse programs available.
Statistics on Drug Use in the Military
While drug use in the military is dangerous, according to statistical data, it’s unfortunately not that uncommon. For example, according to a 2015 Health Related Behaviors Survey on substance use among U.S. active-duty service members, 30% of active-duty military men and women binged drank.
Out of that percentage, 5% of those military members were heavy drinkers. In fact, according to the survey, just over one-third of active-duty military men and women qualified for having an alcohol use disorder. In the Marine Corps, specifically, almost half of the service members engaged in hazardous drinking habits.
Fortunately, the rates of illicit drug use in the military are quite low. In fact, according to the 2015 Health Related Behaviors Survey, less than 1% of active-duty military personnel used illicit drugs. This is probably due to the fact that the military has zero-tolerance for illicit drug use.
Therefore, any active-duty military members that test positive for illicit drug use in a random drug screen can be honorably discharged and face criminal charges. Since the consequences of using illicit drugs are so severe when in the military, very few military personnel even try to use them.
Although illicit drug use in the military is low, the abuse of prescription drugs isn’t. This is because many military personnel abuse the opioid prescription drugs that they are often given to help them manage pain due to injury. In fact, between the years 2001 and 2009, the number of painkiller prescriptions that military doctors wrote out quadrupled.
Overall, the rate of self-reported drug abuse amongst active-duty military personnel is 8.6%. On top of that, one in 10 veterans self-report abusing drugs. Because these rates are based on self-reporting, one should only assume that the actual rates of drug abuse by veterans and active-duty military personnel are higher than this.
Common Types of Drug Use in the Military
Once again, because the consequences of using illicit drugs while in active-duty are so severe, most military men and women stay away from them. Thus, the most popular forms of drug use in the military are common, legal substances.
Alcohol is the substance that military personnel abuse the most. In fact, alcohol addiction rates are higher amongst active-duty military personnel than veterans. This is due to the fact that alcohol is so affordable and easily available at military bases. It also doesn’t help that many people in the military are young men, which are the types of people that are the most reckless with alcohol and reportedly binge drink the most.
As we previously mentioned, prescription drug abuse is just as much of a problem amongst men and women in the military as it is amongst men and women in the real world. The prescription drugs that military personnel abuse the most are opioid pain relievers and depressants.
This is not at all surprising since men and women in the military often face injuries that cause them to be prescribed opioid pain relievers. Also, many individuals in the military face depression due to being away from their loved ones and being under constant stress.
Like with alcohol, the rate of prescription opioid abuse is higher amongst active-duty military personnel than with veterans. This is likely due to the fact that active-duty military individuals have such easy access to prescription opioids.
Tobacco is another substance that many military men and women are addicted to. This also isn’t surprising since many people that experience work stress or depression suffer from nicotine addiction. Thus, because military members are under extreme stress due to their jobs and experience high levels of depression due to being away from their loved ones, it only makes sense that they will experience high levels of nicotine addiction.
Fortunately, though, the rates of tobacco drug use in the military are decreasing each year. In fact, tobacco products are one type of substance that veterans tend to develop more of an addiction to than active-duty military personnel.
The use of e-cigarettes is on the rise currently. Unfortunately, due to the rise of e-cigarette use, many military men and women have burned or injured themselves due to mishaps with vaping devices. This combined with the fact that vaping is linked to lung disease is why vaping devices are now banned at military installations.
Banning vaping devices at military installations has caused the rates of vaping use to decrease amongst military personnel. Still, as long as vaping continues to be a trend, it will still likely be an issue amongst military personnel.
Some active-duty and retired military personnel still choose to abuse banned substances. In fact, the rate of banned drug use in the military is on the rise. This includes the use of substances such as marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. Still, due to the severe consequences that they face when caught with banned drugs, the overall addiction rate to banned substances by active-duty military personnel is quite low.
Reasons Why People in the Military Abuse Substances
There are many reasons why drug use in the military is common. Some of these reasons include the following:
Stress Due to Deployment
Being deployed to a new location away from your loved ones on a dime puts stress on the mind and body. This is especially true for people that get deployed over and over again.
Once a person spends so much time in the military, things such as death, injuries, and danger become second-nature. This could increase one’s level of stress and spark depression in military men and women. To cope with stress or depression, many military men and women abuse substances.
Constantly being in combat or in stressful situations at work causes psychological stress over time. As a result, many people in the military experience depression, trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, and brain injuries. Once military individuals experience psychological stress to the point of developing mental illness, they’ll likely start to abuse substances to cope.
Some forms of substance abuse, in particular, drinking, are popular in military culture. Heavily drinking alcohol is partly popular in military culture because alcohol is available at military installments at discounted rates.
Another reason why heavily drinking alcohol is so popular in military culture is the fact that many individuals that are active-duty in the military are young adult males. This happens to be the demographic of people that most commonly abuse alcohol.
When individuals in the military get injured, military doctors often prescribe them opioid painkillers to help them manage the pain. Like with many people, because many military men and women take more of their opioid prescriptions than prescribed or take their opioid prescriptions for a longer period of time than prescribed, they often develop opioid addictions.
Many men and women in the military experience depression. This is due to the fact that they are away from their loved ones and homes and placed in stressful environments. To cope with this depression, many military members start to abuse substances.
Addiction Treatment for Military Substance Abuse Programs
The Department of Defense takes substance abuse by military personnel seriously. Hence, the severe consequences that occur when active-duty military men and women are found using illicit drugs.
Also, the Department of Defense contains substance abuse programs for those in the military who need help. Some ways that the military detects, treats, and prevents alcohol and drug addiction include:
Random Drug Testing
Random drug testing is one of the most well-known military substance abuse programs. All military personnel must go through random drug testing regularly.
To conduct random drug tests, military men and women must go give a urine sample. Military personnel that end up positive for substance use in their drug tests receive punishment and mandatory counseling. Some military personnel with substance use issues may even attend rehab at an official addiction treatment center.
For those that are bold enough to do so, The Department of Defense allows military men and women to self-identify for substance addiction. Military individuals who choose to admit to substance addiction receive less punishment than those that get caught.
In fact, any military personnel who choose to admit to suffering from substance addiction may not receive punishment at all. Instead, they’ll just have to attend rehab. The reason for not punishing military personnel that self-identify themselves as substance abusers is to incentivize military men and women to seek out addiction treatment.
Personal counseling is a therapeutic tool that the military often uses to help treat military personnel that suffer from depression or trauma. This is necessary since depression and trauma are some of the most common conditions that men and women in the military suffer from.
The Department of Defense offers inpatient detox to military personnel with substance addictions. How long a man or woman in the military attends inpatient detox will depend on the severity of his or her addiction.
Military Substance Abuse Programs
Military substance abuse programs are individualized addiction treatment programs just for military personnel. These substance abuse programs cater specifically to the physical and emotional needs of men and women in the military. These types of programs also provide military personnel with a support network that’s filled with other military men and women.
Individuals can attend military substance abuse programs over the phone, by email, through web portals, or even through text messages. That way, no matter where a man or woman in the military is located, he or she can receive treatment.
Attend Substance Abuse Programs At Phoenix Rising Recovery
At Phoenix Rising Recovery, we try to provide addiction treatment programs that can help every individual achieve sobriety and succeed. That’s why we offer such a wide array of detox, addiction treatment, and addiction therapy services. That’s also why we’ve gone out of our way to offer individualized addiction treatment programs like the one for drug use in the military.
Ultimately, our mission at Phoenix Rising Recovery is to provide authentic, compassionate, and innovative care to adults that are struggling with substance addictions and co-occurring issues. To learn more about Phoenix Rising and the various other addiction treatment and therapy programs and services that we offer, contact us today! We would love to hear from you!