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Substance Abuse in the US Military System Essay

Substance Abuse among Military Veterans and their Families

Since the United States of America incursion in Iraq and Afghanistan, beginning in 2001, substance abuse among military personnel has increased tremendously. A study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse conducted some studies that investigated the core nature of the problem. Alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs are among the most abused substances within the military and veteran population. Moreover, the study shows that prescription drugs are also subject to abuse to a significant extent.

Alcohol is the most abused drug that attracts concern. The effects of excessive alcohol consumption among soldiers include dangerous driving, impaired health, and increased risk of resorting to the use of illicit drugs. Soldiers who had been in combat situations and have an alcohol abuse problem rarely seek medical or counseling assistance. Military authorities have not established proper structures and procedures for assessing soldiers who have experienced battlefield situations.

Younger soldiers are more susceptible to battlefield stress and often result in alcohol abuse more easily, unlike their older colleagues. Of concern is the fact that substance abuse by veteran soldiers degenerates into a self-destructive trend after the end of service (NIDA, 2011).

Perhaps the real cause of the tendency of the soldiers to engage in substance abuse and the persistence of the problem is the detachment from military authorities at the end of service. The authorities are not able to monitor adequately the veterans’ activities after they are discharged from the military. Also, the lack of thou rough medical assessment after active service is a contributing factor.

Army Cracks Down As Drug, Alcohol Cases Rise

It is difficult to detect alcohol abuse among service members and veteran soldiers. Recently military authorities have embarked on a mission of rendering the military community free of the drug. Regulation by the authorities is a difficult feat, and there is a need to employ counseling and self-regulation as the key measures. Soldiers, especially those who are fresh from combat situations, should undergo counseling and medical scrutiny to determine their mental stability and the extent of the war trauma. This will help reduce the number of soldiers, especially veterans, with substance abuse problems.

Mental instability is another symptom of substance abuse. The battlefield pressure coupled with substance abuse often results in mental illnesses that could become chronic. Although mental instability may not be a discernible prima facie, it could quietly develop into a serious condition of schizophrenic scale. Mental illnesses among military personnel and veterans are not entirely due to substance abuse.

However, substance abuse plays a major role in advancing mental instability. It could sometimes couple with intoxication by substances and result in suicide or suicidal behavior. The suicide rates among war veterans and soldiers who have been to a battlefield are high. This is not the case for soldiers who have never been to a battlefield. Furthermore, suicide rates are high among soldiers with a history of substance abuse than those without substance abuse records (Cavallaro, 2009).

Military experts seem to underestimate the extent of drug abuse and the impact of the vice in the military. A clear set of regulations could help eradicate the presence of drugs and drug abuse in the military.

A Look at Drug Use and Testing Within the Military

In the 1980s, evaluating servicemen was a mandatory requirement by the defense department. Soldiers returning from a battlefield underwent a test to determine the presence of drugs and other substances in their blood. The main approach in this regard was the analysis of urine samples taken from the soldiers. However, the cost and efficiency of the program surpassed the military’s budget. Consequently, the relevant authorities discontinued the program on the grounds of lack of sustainability and the negative effects it had on soldiers. During the Vietnam War, a majority of the soldiers were addicted to hard drugs and continued to use them even after the war ended.

Soldiers consider alcohol as a kind of elixir during times of high tension and frequent violent military confrontations. Alcohol is also a unifying factor among soldiers during their get-togethers when there is no combat. The department of defense considers alcohol consumption that results in an unbecoming behavior, impaired performance, or negative effect on those in the immediate environment of the soldier as alcohol abuse.

This department holds it an offense to possess or use a controlled substance within a military installation. The department of defense formed an investigative committee to determine the extent of substance abuse within the military, and later implemented measures to control the vice. Medical examinations showed that some of the servicemen, who had been to a battlefield, presented symptoms of substance abuse (Rhem, 2011).

The change of attitude towards alcohol consumption by the united states military is a significant step towards ensuring the safety of the servicemen is guaranteed. It is pervasive to lead young people into the battlefield under the sedation of an intoxicant.

Military, Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the United States

After the government had abandoned the testing procedures for a while, an accident on a warship when an intoxicated pilot mishandled a military aircraft attracted the relevant authorities’ attention to substance abuse in the military. In the 1990s, the military authorities criminalized the possession and use of controlled substances. The authorities imposed penalties that included the dishonorable discharge from the military on anyone found guilty of alcohol abuse.

The defense department needed to compare the situation in other military entities on a global scale. Several random samples of military installations were placed under scrutiny. The authorities undertook an arbitrary selection of personnel from the military samples for case studies.

The study showed a steady decline in the level of illicit drug and alcohol abuse. It illustrated the possibility that the relatively higher trend of alcohol abuse among military personnel compared to civilians was due to the approach of the military authorities on the issue of alcohol abuse. Although the military is yet to mitigate fully the drug and alcohol abuse menace, studies show an appreciable positive change regarding substance abuse is occurring within the military (BRAY, 2001).

Drug use causes permanent brain impairment to soldiers involved in it. Amphetamines cause brain damage that is evident later after use. Soldiers take these drugs to ensure alertness during duty and facilitate the endurance of long and boring sentry and patrol sessions. Eventually, these drugs become an addiction, which is hard to tackle. The soldiers continue with the drug use habit long after discharge as veterans. Since it is difficult to control drug use among the veterans, it is then cardinal to control drug use when the affected soldiers are still in active military service.

Treating Young Veterans: Promoting Resilience through Practice and Advocacy

The use of controlled substances, which was the reserve of elements in the civilian population, has spread to the military fraternity. This arouses concern since the military personnel involved work with potentially lethal machinery and equipment. Any miscalculation due to substance intoxication could result in a catastrophic accident.

Military personnel claim that the odds are against the possibility of a mistake occurring during the sample analysis. The samples are primarily urine specimens taken from soldiers. The drug test is negative if the concentration of the drug under-investigated is less than the minimum admissible level for a positive outcome. In this essence, the soldier under test is safe from defective outcomes of the testing. Positive results for substance abuse attract dire penalties including dishonorable discharge from service.

Drug use in active military duty results from persistent boredom. Long periods of idling separate events in the active military work. This causes the military personnel to engage in drug abuse. An intoxicated soldier’s reaction time and judgment poses a danger to colleagues. An investigation is vital to ensure that the soldier had justifiable circumstances leading to drug abuse before allowing him or her to resume duty after the rehabilitation process. The military authorities may decide to maintain soldiers found the quality of substance abuse, but deny them a chance to engage in active duty and direct combat.

The additional privileges given to the soldiers may also be a factor in facilitating increased drug abuse. Today’s soldier lives in a private space in the barracks. This makes it possible for a soldier to engage in substance abuse in the confines of his or her room. Before the privacy policy, it was difficult for a soldier to develop pervasive tendencies. The colleagues kept all actions of a soldier in check. The inspection of the soldier’s living quarters is essential to facilitate the reduction of substance instances among soldiers (Kelly et al, 2011).

Although substance abuse is still a problem in the military, there has been a remarkable reduction of the vice due to the strict measures employed to detect and discipline errant individuals. However, some changes to the policy within the living quarters of the soldiers are necessary to ensure the full mitigation of the vice. The current target by military authorities is the excessive use of alcohol.


BRAY, R. (2001). Military, Drug And Alcohol Abuse In The United States. Military, Drug And Alcohol Abuse In The United States, 2-3.

Cavallaro, G. (2009). Army cracks down as drug, alcohol cases rise. Army News, 1.

Kelly, D. C., Barksdale, S., & Gitelson, D. (2011). Treating young veterans: promoting resilience through practice and advocacy. New York, NY: Springer Pub. 20-30.

NIDA, N. (2011). Substance Abuse among the Military, Veterans, and their Families. science of drug Abuse and Addiction, 1.

Rhem, K. (2011). A Look at Drug Use and Testing Within the Military. US Military, 1.

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1. IvyPanda. "Substance Abuse in the US Military System." February 13, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/substance-abuse-in-the-us-military-system/.


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IvyPanda. 2021. "Substance Abuse in the US Military System." February 13, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/substance-abuse-in-the-us-military-system/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Substance Abuse in the US Military System'. 13 February.

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