Substance abuse in the US Armed Forces has been a significant problem for more than 150 years. During the Revolution, the use of alcohol and absinthe by troops was prolific, but drug use was practically unheard of. This changed when soldiers on both sides of the Civil War were introduced to morphine. As a powerful new drug at the time, many people quickly became addicted until morphine and laudanum use was widespread across the country. During later wars and during times of peace there was little difference except the drugs that were being used: in the Civil War it was morphine, during the Vietnam War it was speed and marijuana, and many of today's soldiers and sailors abuse and become addicted to many different types of substances. However, the problem is that in some cases the military actively promotes the use of certain addictive drugs.

According to Elliot Borin in The US Military Needs its Speed, the United States Department of Defense distributed and encouraged the use of millions of amphetamines to soldiers during WWII and the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. The military has stated that these drugs are needed to keep troops mission ready, but detractors state that the recommendation that service people take these drugs is simply irresponsible. Additionally, a recent press release from the Pentagon ground and other troops are permitted to be deployed to the Middle East with up to a six month supply of psychotropic drugs. The military defends this move by citing the difficulty in getting these medications to troops who are in the field. However, psychotropic drugs in battle environments can lead to a host of complications – some of which can be outright dangerous. Side effects of many psychotropic drugs include rage and violent outbursts, anxiety and panic attacks and paranoia – not at all desirable traits when in a combat role.

Substance abuse in the US Armed Forces extends far beyond the permissible and encouraged drug use to illicit chemicals of all types. Soldiers and sailors are routinely arrested and tried for possession, use and distribution of heroin, cocaine, crack, meth, ecstasy, marijuana, acid and many other drugs. In fact, an entire section of the Uniform Code of Military Justice is dedicated to dealing with drugs and drug related offenses. This includes Article 112A, which states: "Any person subject to this chapter who wrongfully uses, possesses, manufactures, distributes, imports into the customs territory of the United States, exports from the United States, or introduces into an installation, vessel, vehicle, or aircraft used by or under the control of the armed forces a substance described in subsection (b) shall be punished as a court-martial may direct."

The trouble for many soldiers is that while the boredom and isolation of their duties might cause them to use drugs, it is the UCMJ that causes them to hide the fact that a problem has developed. This further exacerbates things for a soldier who is addicted to drugs because seeking help can be equivalent to career suicide. However, if done appropriately in some case a service member may be able to get professional drug addiction treatment with minimal repercussions.

If you or someone you care about is in the military and has a problem, call us now to discuss one of the country's most successful drug and alcohol addiction recovery programs.

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Author's Bio: 

A writer for most of his career, Casey has been published in numerous journals and magazines and has four books in print. Widely considered an expert on addiciton and alcoholism, Casey is also a passionate writer of fiction.