The National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that soldiers are usually affected by substance use problems (Allen, Crawford, & Kudler, 2016). It is also notable that the use of illicit drugs and alcohol is not high among military professionals in comparison with the other members of the society. Stress and the nature of the working environment are some of the risk factors for alcoholism in the military. Organizational culture and bureaucracy associated with the military encourages more people to use various substances. Sleeper and Bochain (2013) argue that the nature of this problem should be analyzed carefully in an attempt to come up with adequate guidelines to address it. This paper gives powerful guidelines and recommendations that can be embraced by substance abuse social workers to treat and minimize alcohol dependence in the military.
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Analyzing the Nature of the Problem
Statistics indicate clearly that alcoholism has become a major challenge in the military. In 1998, around 35 percent of active duty soldiers were observed to engage in various malpractices such as drinking alcohol (Allen et al., 2016). Binge drinking was also identified as a common practice in the military. The percentage of alcohol users had increased to 47 percent by 2008 (Waller, McGuire, & Dobson, 2015). This is a clear indication that alcohol dependence is quite high among women and men in the military. Interestingly, the percentage is extremely high among soldiers who have been exposed to deadly environments. This means that there is a positive relationship between combat exposure and alcoholism in the military.
Pietrzak, Pullman, Cotea, and Nasveld (2013) indicate that specific factors tend to influence the behaviors of different military men. For instance, frequent drinking varies depending on certain attributes such as gender, age, exposure, and race. Military men were observed to have increased chances of taking alcohol. Heavy drinking has also been observed among Hispanics in comparison with whites. The rank of an individual is linked with frequency of drinking. Evidence indicates that those in lower ranks tend to drink frequently compared with their respective supervisors or commanders. Young soldiers below the age of 27 have been observed to embrace the malpractice. This is a clear indication that the rate of drinking decreases with age.
The most remarkable observation is that substance abuse and alcoholism in the military is catalyzed by stress and trauma (Allen et al., 2016). Some of the events experienced during combat contribute to drink and burnout. The affected persons eventually decide to engage in binge drinking as a way of tackling stress. The problem continues to affect many veterans after returning from various missions or operations. Walker et al. (2017) believe that around 15 percent of all veterans deal with alcohol dependence. Although the quantity of alcohol consumed by veterans reduces significantly after a few months, the undeniable fact is that the problem makes it impossible for them to realize their potential. This understanding can, therefore, be embraced by social workers in the military to develop evidence-based treatment plans to deal with the predicament.
Effective Treatments for Alcohol Abuse or Dependence in the Military
The above discussion reveals that alcohol abuse is a critical challenge affecting many service women and men. The number of people faced by alcoholism in the American military and elsewhere is on the rise (Sleeper & Bochain, 2013). The existence and nature of this health challenge indicates that different stakeholders have failed to develop powerful mechanisms and programs to deal with it. Unless apposite interventions and treatment options are put into consideration, more service people will be unable to re-pattern their lives (Pietrzak et al., 2013). Fortunately, there are various strategies and treatment regimes that can be used to help service men and women who are affected by this quandary. These treatments are described below.
Substance Abuse Social Workers
Social workers are professionals equipped with adequate dexterities that can be utilized to support the welfare of many people in the military. These experts understand how to scan for challenges and offer appropriate support to the targeted clients. They play a critical role by finding specialized and adequate solutions to the challenges arising from alcoholism. Unfortunately, evidence reveals that the American military is yet to embrace the full benefits of these experts (Allen et al., 2016). Social workers specializing in addiction and alcohol dependence will use the best pathways to identify problems, assess clients’ needs, and provide evidence-based treatment plans. The first critical strategy, therefore, towards dealing with this predicament is attracting more social workers to offer their services in the military.
Pietrzak et al. (2013) argue that different people in the military encounter diverse hurdles that encourage them to engage in binge drinking. There are also specific risk factors for alcoholism in the military. Such aspects will affect the experiences and decisions of different service men. This knowledge explains why specialists such as social workers can pinpoint the risk factors associated with every person. This understanding will ensure personalized support, care, and treatment is available to the military personnel (Wooten, 2015). These professionals use their competencies to educate clients and identify specific issues that might affect the treatment process.
Substance abuse experts working in the military can ensure their clients stick to their respective recovery plans. This goal is usually achieved through continuous provision of resources, information, and guidelines. Emerging hurdles are addressed to ensure the client discontinues the malpractice. Social workers can provide adequate counseling depending on the major issues facing the beneficiary. Wooten (2015) acknowledges that the roles of these social abuse social workers can be extended to focus on the needs of veterans affected by this problem (Pietrzak et al., 2013). By doing so, the challenge of alcohol dependence in the military will be reduced significantly. Consequently, more people will be in a position to pursue their objectives.
The Use of Detoxification
Many professionals believe strongly that the treatment of alcoholic abuse among members of the public and in the military is more or less the same. However, existing policies and laws within the military should be taken seriously if positive results are to be realized. Additionally, experts argue that effective treatment regimes for drug and alcohol abuse must be integrated (Walker et al., 2017). Alcoholism is a major disorder that might not be treated successfully using a single approach. This understanding should be considered by social workers, psychologists, and therapists to come up with appropriate treatment methods. Basically, the strategies used to deal with this disorder are implemented as interventions (Wooten, 2015).
Healthcare practitioners, nurses, physicians, and social workers in the military should begin by embracing the use of detoxification. This procedure is efficient since individuals who want to quit drinking alcohol might portray various withdrawal symptoms. Some of these signs include anxiety, fear, or weakness (Harbertson, Hale, Watkins, Michael, & Scott, 2016). Detoxification is supported by many experts since it helps the targeted person to get ready for the intervention. Most of the targeted military men and women affected by alcohol abuse should be identified and provided with this health intervention. The individuals should be encouraged to visit their doctors frequently to receive quality care or information (Heberman et al., 2016). Medicines are prescribed in an attempt to treat various withdrawal signs.
Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment
The ultimate goal of a health intervention or treatment plan is to ensure the patient receives quality and timely medical care (Sleeper & Bochain, 2013). People affected by this disorder can be supported using either outpatient or inpatient treatment options. In an outpatient setting, servicemen can be encouraged to visit military clinics for treatment. Suitable medications and therapies are provided to produce desirable outcomes. Various drugs can also be prescribed to the patient.
In an inpatient setting, the addict will stay in the targeted clinic for a day or more depending on the intervention plan. The medicinal professionals will administer the right drugs, provide adequate information, and offer therapy. The patient’s progress is recorded periodically in an attempt to make desirable adjustments (Allen, Nieuwsma, & Meador, 2014). A personalized care plan is usually used because people addicted by alcohol will portray different symptoms. The involvement of different professionals throughout the process will ensure positive results are recorded in a timely manner.
Individuals affected by drug dependence in the military can be supported using efficient counseling processes. This treatment procedure is has been embraced in different healthcare settings to help persons affected by various forms of drug abuse (Sleeper & Bochain, 2013). Patients can receive a wide range of therapies in the military. Several therapeutic procedures can be combined by healthcare workers if desirable results are to be realized. Individualized therapy can be provided to a patient who is planning to quit the malpractice. Allen et al. (2014) argue that the use of group therapy can be considered since it has the potential to deliver timely results. This is possible because two or more persons are encouraged to be part of the intervention process. When applied effectively to alcoholic people in the military, group and individual therapy techniques can deliver meaningful outcomes.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is another evidence-based approach that can be used to deal with alcohol dependence in the military (Heberman et al., 2016). This counseling strategy guides clients to change their thoughts and consider better actions that can result in admirable lifestyles. Specific contributors or risk factors for drinking alcohol are identified during the process. This knowledge is then used by counselors to guide the individuals. The main objective is to ensure “the patient deals with cravings” (Harbertson et al., 2016, p. 189). The method will ensure more soldiers do not continue drinking alcohol.
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Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) is characterized by 4 sessions. The effectiveness of this counseling approach explains why it is applicable in the military. Since servicemen are needed to complete numerous tasks or responsibilities, the use of the therapy might not interfere with existing programs. Counselors and psychotherapists use the technique to interview and motivate the targeted soldiers to quit the malpractice. The sessions can be characterized by more than three individuals (Allen et al., 2014). Additionally, the model can be personalized to ensure the beneficiary quits within the shortest time possible.
Past studies have indicated that individuals affected by the vice tend to have significant problems with their family members. This knowledge explains why counselors can embrace the power of family and couples therapy (Sleeper & Bochain, 2013). This kind of therapy is beneficial because it guides and empowers patients to remain sober and strengthen their relationships with different members of their families. The reduced level of stress will discourage more people from engaging in various drinking habits.
The military has not considered the importance and benefits of support groups. Sleeper and Bochain (2013) argue that support groups encourage patients to acknowledge that their problems are shared by their colleagues. The revelations and interactions associated with the strategy encourage more people to consider evidence-based initiatives that can make it easier for them to pursue their goals. When managed and organized in a professional manner, support groups can empower and guide more people to quit and lead better lifestyles.
Use of Medicines
Social workers and caregivers in the military should combine most of the above intervention strategies with various drugs. This is the case because medicines have been observed to treat alcohol abuse and dependence successfully. Most of the prescribed drugs are able to minimize withdrawal symptoms and support the recovery process (Heberman et al., 2016). Other drugs can ensure patients stay sober until they recover completely. Individuals in the military should discuss with their physicians and social workers in order to receive the right medications.
The common medications for withdrawal symptoms include diazepam (Sleeper & Bochain, 2013). This is a benzodiazepine used to immunize delirium tremens (Murphy, Palmer, Westwood, Busuttil, & Greenberg, 2016). Severe symptoms should be treated using seizure drugs. Individuals who want to recover from alcohol dependence should be encouraged to take drugs such as disulfiram. This drug discourages people from drinking because it causes stomach discomfort after taking alcohol (Heberman et al., 2016). Vivitrol and ReVia can be administered to military men because they disorient the pleasure experienced after drinking.
Campral is a widely used drug that makes it hard for people to take alcohol. Problems associated with alcoholism are treated used a drug known as Topamax. Doctors and physicians should combine these drugs to ensure every patient remains sober (Murphy et al., 2016). The combination of such medicines with therapeutic processes will deliver positive results within the shortest time possible. The approach can ensure more service men recover from the vice and eventually pursue their career objectives.
Supplements and Vitamins
Military men tend to work in stressful and disheartening environments. They encounter numerous challenges that might leave them traumatized. This is a major risk factor for becoming alcoholic. It is necessary for the targeted individuals to receive adequate vitamins and supplements (Murphy et al., 2016). Alcohol misuse has been observed to result in decreased amounts of vitamins and minerals in the body. For example, alcoholism is associated with reduced levels of thiamine or vitamin B1 in the body. Throughout the treatment process, it is necessary for patients to receive thiamine or vitamin supplements. This approach will improve the client’s nutrition and support the recovery process. The provision of supplements is supported by researchers because they replace lost electrolytes in the body.
Continuous Education Programs
The rate at which alcoholism in the military is rising is quite surprising. The absence of appropriate programs to sensitize military men about the problems of alcohol and drug dependence can be used to explain why the disorder is becoming a major concern (Walker et al., 2017). Most of the soldiers lack adequate information that can encourage them to engage in meaningful practices and avoid misbehaviors such as binge drinking. This gap calls for adequate programs to educate and empower more service women and women. Such programs should be implemented in every unit in an attempt to achieve positive results.
Individuals who are informed about the major challenges associated with alcohol abuse will be willing to avoid the vice. Different family members will be ready to support and empower the targeted soldiers (Sleeper & Bochain, 2013). The educational program will ensure more persons are aware of the issues arising from alcohol dependence. This initiative will address the problem and reduce the number of alcohol abusers in the military significantly.
Saint Leo University’s Core Values
Social workers and physicians should be consider specific values and principles whenever providing desirable support to victims of alcohol abuse. Saint Leo University outlines specific core values that might influence clinical and ethical decision making in the treatment of this disorder. To begin with, the concept of excellence can guide different professionals to embrace the best practices in an attempt to maximize the patient’s health outcomes. The idea of community promotes the best approaches that empower every individual in a given society (“Mission & values,” 2017). Respect is a guiding principle whereby a social worker focuses on the rights and expectations of every soldier.
Personal development is another core value that encourages caregivers and social workers to engage in lifelong learning and interact with their clients. They focus on new concepts that can transform their care delivery philosophies. This value can guide them to come up with better treatment regimes and eventually meet the diverse needs of their respective patients. Responsible stewardship can be used to foster the idea of service. The ultimate goal should be to utilize adequate resources to meet the diverse needs of the beneficiaries. Integrity is a useful value that encourages individuals “to be honest, just, and consistent in word and deed” (“Mission & values,” 2017, para. 8). These values will definitely guide social workers and caregivers to treat and support the welfare of more soldiers affected by alcohol abuse.
Alcoholism has become a common disorder in the military. More people continue to engage in binge drinking than ever before. This situation is expected to worsen unless something is done. The problem catalyzes a wide range of challenges such as inefficiency and inability to pursue personal objectives. This discussion, therefore, reveals that the problem can only be addressed through the use of adequate treatment methods. It is notable that a single treatment method might not deliver positive results. Military institutions should encourage proficient social workers, physicians, and psychotherapists to work together and develop personalized treatment regimes. These methods should include support groups, medications, counseling sessions, educational programs, and therapies (Heberman et al., 2016). These evidence-based strategies will work synergistically to treat alcohol abuse among members of the military and empower them to pursue their potential.
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