Combat takes a heavy toll on those who witness devastating violence and destruction on a daily basis. And sometimes, the only way solace to be found is in a hazy, drug induced fog. Turning to drugs and alcohol is the only way many combat soldiers are able to cope with the atrocities they witness first-hand each day. Studies have shown that soldiers exposed to combat conditions are more likely to become addicted to drugs and alcohol than civilians.
According to recent Army statistics, more soldiers than ever are seeking treatment for drug and alcohol related abuse. In 2009 alone, almost 9,200 soldiers sought out treatment for alcohol abuse. This is a 56 percent increase since the beginning of the Iraq war. In addition, another 11,892 soldiers were forced to undergo an 'alcohol education' program. The program is a sixteen to twenty hour course instituted for soldiers who have been disciplined for an alcohol related offense, but who do not necessarily have a problem with abuse.
The problem has become so widespread that the Army has been forced to search for counselors nationwide in an effort to reduce wait times from days to hours. Currently, for every 2,000 soldiers needing help, there is only one counselor.
In addition to increased alcohol abuse, the number of opiate addicted combat soldiers has surged over the past few years. The Pentagon released statistics showing that requests for opiate counseling has increased nearly 500% since 2004. Though the army did break down the data to show how many of the soldiers had been deployed in combat, there seems to be a correlation to the number of troops deployed and skyrocketing opiate abuse. The most popular opiates included heroin, codeine, and morphine.
Why Is There Such a Problem with Addiction Among Combat Soldiers?
When soldiers suffering from addiction are questioned about how they reached the point of addiction, many of them respond that process is often a gradual one. At first, drugs and alcohol are used to dull the pain of seeing non-stop violence on a daily basis. It is a way of coping with the situation. Pretty soon, the soldiers become more and more dependent on the drugs or alcohol.
What Help Is There for Combat Soldiers Suffering from Addiction?
Combat is a difficult and trying time for all of the soldiers involved. Fortunately, if you or your loved one is suffering from alcohol or drug addiction, there is help available. While once there was an unwritten code of silence, the military is working hard to remove the stigma surrounding addiction, and it is no longer viewed as a weakness.