The U.S. military has introduced a number of measures aimed at reducing binge drinking, NBC News reports. Service members and addiction specialists say alcohol abuse in the military is widespread.
Initiatives include a program to give random breathalyzer tests to Marine Corps members; bans on some overnight liquor sales for U.S. military personnel in Germany; and a rule barring American service members in Japan from leaving their residences after having more than one alcoholic beverage.
The new rules come several months after the Institute of Medicine published a report that found binge drinking in the military increased from 35 percent in 1998, to 47 percent a decade later. According to the report, substance abuse among members of the U.S. military and their families has become a public health crisis. The Defense Department’s approaches to preventing and treating substance abuse are outdated, the report states.
Dr. Charles P. O’Brien, chairman of the panel that wrote the report, and Director of the Center for Studies of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania, told NBC News the panel found there is only one doctor in the entire U.S. Army trained in addiction medicine. “This is a specialty where we need more people and they’re not there,” he said. “So, most people are not getting treated with evidence-based medicine.”
The report recommended the military’s health system, called TRICARE, change its rules to allow members struggling with substance abuse to be treated with anti-addiction medications such as Suboxone. O’Brien said he has learned that the suggestion has not yet been implemented.