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Extra Steps Urged to Cut Alcohol, Drug Use in Military: Report
Date:9/17/2012

MONDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Alcohol and drug abuse remain major problems in the U.S. military and further measures are needed to improve the prevention and treatment of these disorders among service members and their families, a new report from the Institute of Medicine says.

According to the report released Monday, which was requested by members of Congress, outdated approaches to preventing and treating substance abuse, barriers to care and other issues are impeding the U.S. Defense Department's ability to curb the problem.

Among the findings: Heavy drinking was reported by about 20 percent of active-duty military personnel in 2008, the latest year for which statistics are available; binge drinking rose from 35 percent in 1998 to 47 percent in 2008; and the number of active-duty personnel who said they misused prescription drugs rose from 2 percent in 2002 to 11 percent in 2008.

"We commend the steps that the Department of Defense and individual service branches have recently taken to improve prevention and care for substance use disorders, but the armed forces face many ongoing challenges," report committee chairman Charles O'Brien, professor and vice chair in the department of psychiatry, and director of the Center for Studies of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a news release from the National Academy of Sciences.

"Better care for service members and their families is hampered by inadequate prevention strategies, staffing shortages, lack of coverage for services that are proved to work, and stigma associated with these disorders. This report recommends solutions to address each of these concerns," O'Brien said.

The authors of the report advise the U.S. Department of Defense to take the lead in ensuring that all branches of the military take substance use seriously and implement consistent, proven methods for prevention, screening and treatment.

Although the Defense Dep
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