Substance Abuse impacts readiness

By Mr. Wesley P Elliott (Army Medicine)September 30, 2016

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Joint Base Sam Houston, Texas (Oct. 1, 2016) -- A 2016 Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) study reports that the majority of Army personnel claim to be "social drinkers" and that 98 percent of Soldiers enrolled in ASAP fall into that category.

The ASAP study found that Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in the U.S. Army and 27 percent of Army soldiers were found to meet the criteria for referral to treatment when screened within 3-4 months after returning home from service in Iraq. These Soldiers are at a high risk for harmful behaviors such as drinking while driving and the use of illicit drugs.

"Alcohol related behavior issues affect the readiness of the Soldier as well as the Soldier's unit, family members, and friends," said Col. (Dr.) Phillip Horton, Director of the Eisenhower Army Medical Center Residential Treatment Facility.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends increased screening which could result in a decrease in alcohol-related problems. However, screenings depend on Soldiers to properly report behavior accurately during the survey.

"The Army Substance Abuse Program strengthens the overall fitness and effectiveness of the Army?s workforce by providing Soldiers with the tools to get treatment for substance abuse and alcohol problems," said Horton.

The U.S. Army substance abuse program defines 'at risk' alcohol use as more than seven drinks per week or more than three drinks per occasion for women and more than 14 drinks per week for men or more than four drinks per occasion.

Alcohol abuse is regarded as usage that results in consequences that may cause someone to fail to fulfill school, work, or family obligations and may result in drinking-related legal problems such as driving under the influence (DUI) or public intoxication charges.

"People with alcohol dependence have lost control of their alcohol use. It doesn't matter what kind of alcohol someone drinks or even how much; alcohol-dependent people are often unable to stop drinking once they start," said Horton.

Alcohol dependence is characterized by tolerance or the need to drink more to achieve the same "high" and withdrawal symptoms if drinking is suddenly stopped. Withdrawal symptoms may include nausea, sweating, restlessness, irritability, tremors, hallucinations, and convulsions.

Although severe alcohol problems get the most public attention, even mild to moderate problems cause substantial damage to individuals, their families and the community.

"According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1 in 12 American adults is an alcohol abuser or alcoholic and young adults, aged 18 to 29, are the most likely to have alcohol problems. This age range is reflective of our military population," said Horton.

How to identify possible Alcohol use disorder:

1) Taken in larger amounts over time

2) Unsuccessful efforts to cut down

3) Large amount of time spent obtaining/using or recovering

4) Cravings

5) Failure to fulfill major obligations

6) Continued use despite consequences

7) Social, occupational, and recreational activities affected adversely

8) Use in physically hazardous situations

9) Continued alcohol use despite related problems

10) Tolerance

11) Withdrawal symptoms

Related Links:

Army Substance Abuse Program