Drug Abuse Among Troops Skyrockets

Army soldiers seeking help has climbed 25% in last 5 years

A report published in USA Today shows the number of soldiers seeking help for substance abuse has climbed 25% in the past five years.  About 13,500 soldiers have sought drug counseling this year compared to 11,170 in 2003. 

The report also says the Army's counseling program has remained significantly understaffed and is struggling to meet the demand.

The statistics don't surprise doctors at San Diego's Veteran's Hospital, who are seeing a growth in drug and alcohol abuse patients as well. There has been a 20% increase in patients at the VA Hospital in the last six months, and the number is growing.

"We're seeing primarily alcohol and amphetamine use, as well as marijuana and many of them are using multiple drugs," said Dr. Stephen Groban, a psychiatrist with the hospital's Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program.

About 20% of the patients have served in the Iraqi and Afghanistan conflicts. Many of them are also reservists, who seem to be coming back with more severe problems, according to doctors. The impact of recurring deployments has made the problem worse, according to doctors in the San Diego program. And because of that, they expect the numbers to increase.

"The goal for us is to try to intervene to identify these young people at an earlier time before the problems reach the point that we are now seeing them," said Dr. Groban.

In recognizing the need, the VA's Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program has increased it's staffing by adding additional addiction therapists.

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