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Army Postpones Expansion of Confidential Alcohol Treatment Program

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The Army has decided to postpone expansion of its confidential alcohol treatment program for almost three years, citing a high dropout rate in its pilot phase.

The Confidential Alcohol Treatment and Education Project is aimed at helping soldiers who abuse alcohol, before more serious substance abuse problems develop that could harmfully impact their finances, health, relationships and military career. The Army introduced the program in 2009 at three Army installations, and expanded it to six posts.

Because of a 70 percent dropout rate, the Army decided to postpone expanding the program to all 60 Army bases, according to USA Today. Les McFarling, head of the Army Substance Abuse Program, said the Army wants the dropout rate to fall to 30 percent before the program grows.

The article notes one-fourth of soldiers have a drinking problem. One recent study found alcohol abuse related to domestic violence is an increasing problem in the Army. The study also found the suicide rate among active-duty soldiers reached an all-time high last year.

Many soldiers avoid counseling for alcohol abuse, because current military policy requires that their commanders are notified if they do so, according to the newspaper.

H. Westley Clark, head of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, told USA Today that waiting for a 30 percent dropout rate before expanding is unreasonable. He noted that high dropout rates are common in civilian treatment programs. Even a small amount of counseling can help soldiers, he said, adding that confidentiality is needed to encourage soldiers to seek help early. “You don’t want to wait until someone is totally dysfunctional…becoming very depressed or suicidal,” he said.

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