By Julia Hanessian
USAG Rheinland-Pfalz Army Substance Abuse Program
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- The difficult process of finding a new normal during COVID-19 has been a challenge for many, especially those who struggle with substance use.
A recent report on substance use (https://exclusive.multibriefs.com/content/drug-use-rises-among-us-workers-amidst-the-pandemic/healthcare-administration) notes that more than “20 million people in the United States suffer from a substance use disorder.” Before the pandemic started, drug testing positivity rates among U.S. workers had reached a 16-year high. Since the beginning of the pandemic several states have reported an increase in opioid overdoses, according to recent reports.
In contrast, the active duty military community has not seen a rise in opioid overdose related deaths or opioid use. In fact, because of more options for pain management and more stringent prescription rules, opioid related deaths have been decreasing for the past two years, according to local military officials.
Although the military community isn’t experiencing the same crisis with opioids seen in the states right now, there are other drugs that some are turning to, including marijuana and “juice,” a synthetic drug used with a vape.
This trend among Soldiers and family members is echoed in open source data since the beginning of the pandemic. During a recent review of more than 1 million comments and threads on Reddit.com from January 2020 to July 2020 to determine drug use trends and patterns since the beginning of COVID 19, it was found that the top three most-used substances are marijuana, alcohol, and hallucinogens.
It further uncovered that drug use jumped from March-May, coinciding with the height of the lockdown during the first wave. The review also found that drug use went down a little in June, but rose again in July. It was also noted that many more people tried to stop using drugs in July, perhaps as a reaction to overuse. However, substance use was also very high in the month of July.
The greater Rheinland-Pfalz community has several resources available for those who are struggling to manage their substance use. The Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) has a number of support programs in place for community members, including education and counseling resources, to include monthly ‘Prime for Life’ classes which equip people with tools to help them make low risk choices regarding alcohol and substance use.
Beyond education classes, ASAP has Employee Assistance Program Coordinators (EAPC) to provide confidential, short term, solution-focused counseling for all Army civilians and retirees, and their family members over 18.
EAP counseling often serves as the first step for getting tools that can help people follow through with changes they want to make with a focus on the ‘now’; solutions and results. The Air Force also has an EAPC program for Air Force civilian service members and their families.
Another option available to Army and Air Force members and their families are Marriage Family Life Counselors (MFLCs) to turn to as a first line of support with substance use struggles. They also provide confidential, short term, solution-focused counselling, and referral services if more support is needed. In addition, military community members also have Chaplains to turn to for non-clinical, spiritual support when wrestling with substance use.
For more support from the above agencies please contact them directly at:
Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) Education and EAP Counseling Services
CIV: 0631-3406-1710 DSN: 493-1710
Air Force EAP
Marriage and Family Life Counselors (MFLC)
Religious Support Office/Kleber