After 14 years at war, many U.S. soldiers are in need of substance abuse treatment. Many veterans have been prescribed powerful narcotics to deal with pain, as well as post traumatic stress spectrum disorder, resulting in high rates of prescription drug abuse throughout the ranks. Others turn to alcohol to combat mental illness, which sadly only exasperates the problem. Every year, sadly, a number of veterans resort to suicide to deal with their suffering.
A new report, conducted per the request of the Defense Department, has found that thousands of soldiers are not able to receive desperately needed treatment services, in fact an estimated 20,000 soldiers seek help each year at Army substance abuse clinics, according to USA Today. Those who do manage to get help often times receive substandard care, and the approaches used for preventing and treating substance abuse were found to be outdated.
Much of the problem stems from a change of policy in 2010, when the U.S. Army shifted substance abuse outpatient treatment from medical to non-medical leadership, the report points out. The change resulted in many experienced counselors leaving; those qualified were replaced with substandard clinical directors and counselors. However, the Army claims that its substance abuse treatment services haven’t diminished due to the change in leadership, despite the fact that since 2010, around 90 soldiers took their own lives within three months of receiving substance abuse treatment from the Army, the report stated.
“This is the crux of the whole thing,” said psychologist and former program director Wanda Kuehr. Non-medical managers want to “get the reports in on time and fill the slots. They think that makes a good program. Our goal is to give treatment to soldiers. And (the bosses) see that as inconsequential … What’s happening to soldiers matters and the Army can’t just keep pushing things under the rug.”
Data from 2008 indicated that the rate of binge drinking increased from 35 percent in 1998 to 47 percent a decade later. In 2008, 20 percent of active duty service members reported having engaged in heavy drinking.