The Challenges of Alcohol Use Disorder in the Military

Alcohol use disorder is a significant issue affecting military personnel, both during active duty and after their service. The demanding nature of military life, can contribute to the development of unhealthy behaviors such as excessive alcohol consumption. However, there are resources available specifically tailored to meet the needs of military members, helping them regain a healthier life.

The Prevalence of Alcohol Use Disorder in the Military

Alcohol use disorder has long been a concern within the U.S. military, with trends and areas of focus evolving over time. While illegal drug use has declined, the frequency and amount of alcohol misuse continue to increase across all branches of the military. A review of survey data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2013 to 2017 revealed that members of the Armed Forces lead all other professions in the number of days per year spent drinking.

The statistics are alarming, with service members reporting alcohol consumption on an average of 130 days per year, compared to the average of 91 days per year among other professions . Moreover, this problem is only escalating, as the average number of drinking days per year reported by service members increased by 34 over the four years of data collection.

Within the Army specifically, excessive alcohol consumption is prevalent, particularly among enlisted members. According to the Department of Defense (DoD), nearly 30% of Army service members report binge drinking. Male Army personnel, especially younger enlisted members, are more likely to engage in excessive drinking than their female counterparts.

Recognizing Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder is a chronic disease characterized by an individual’s inability to control their drinking. Which can lead to negative consequences in various aspects of their life. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder. Early recognition and intervention can significantly improve outcomes.

Some common signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder include:

  • Inability to limit drinking: Individuals with alcohol use disorder find it challenging to restrict their alcohol consumption, often exceeding their intended limits.
  • Continuing to drink despite problems: Despite experiencing personal, professional, or school-related issues as a result of their drinking. Individuals with this disorder, persist in their alcohol consumption.
  • Increased tolerance: Over time, individuals may find that they need to consume larger quantities of alcohol to achieve the desired effects.
  • Obsessive thoughts about drinking: People with alcohol use disorder may become preoccupied with alcohol, constantly thinking about when and how they can consume it.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: When the effects of alcohol wear off, individuals with alcohol use disorder may experience withdrawal symptoms such as trouble sleeping, restlessness, nausea, anxiety, or depression.

It is crucial to note that alcohol use disorder is a serious condition that can have significant negative impacts on an individual’s physical health, relationships, and overall well-being. Seeking professional help is essential for effective treatment and recovery.

Resources for Army Personnel with Alcohol Use Disorders

Recognizing the need for support and treatment, the Army has established the Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) to address substance use disorders proactively. This program emphasizes deterrence, prevention, education, and treatment, providing tailored assistance to service members struggling with alcohol and substance abuse.

For additional information on substance use disorders and available treatment resources, the Military OneSource website provides valuable insights and tools. It offers an online tool to locate treatment facilities across the United States and U.S. Territories, specifically for substance use disorder, addiction, and mental health problems. This resource, provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), serves as a tool for individuals seeking help.

Mental Health Concerns: Depression, PTSD, and Anxiety in the Army

The unique challenges faced by military personnel can contribute to the development of mental health disorders. Soldiers exposed to combat or life in dangerous environments may develop anxiety disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a psychological response to trauma or the fear of one’s safety. PTSD can also arise from surviving an assault, including sexual assault. Depression is also prevalent among soldiers, as they grapple with the readjustment process and the memories and experiences they bring home with them.

It is worth noting that PTSD and substance use disorders often co-occur, with a bidirectional relationship between the two. Individuals with PTSD may turn to alcohol or drugs as a means of coping with the symptoms. While those with a history of alcohol use disorder or substance use disorders are more susceptible to developing PTSD.

Addressing the Crisis: Suicide Prevention in the Military

Suicide is a significant concern among military personnel, with the suicide rate among active-duty service members steadily increasing. In fact, it is the second-leading cause of death for members of the U.S. military.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense have established crisis hotlines to provide immediate support. The Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line offer free and confidential assistance to service members. These crisis lines can be accessed by dialing 1-800-273-8255 or by texting 838255.

The link between mental health disorders, substance use disorders, and suicide rates among active-duty Army personnel is significant. Studies show that alcohol or drug misuse often precedes suicide attempts, underlining the importance of early intervention and effective treatment.

Seeking Help: Recovery Options for Veterans

Agape Behavioral Healthcare, is a leading addiction treatment provider. Our treatment program utilizes various therapeutic approaches to help Veterans process traumatic events and overcome negative experiences.

With a focus on individualized care, Agape Behavioral Healthcare provides a supportive environment for Veterans to reclaim their lives and achieve lasting recovery.

Alcohol use disorder and substance abuse pose significant challenges for military personnel. However, numerous resources are available to support service members in their journey to recovery. By recognizing the signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder, accessing tailored treatment programs, and leveraging crisis hotlines military personnel can regain control of their lives and achieve better mental and physical well-being.

Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and there is a wealth of support available for those in need.

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