Monday, June 22, 2009

Binge drinking on the rise among U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan

The level of binge drinking, and alcoholism generally, among US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has spiked considerably. It is particularly marked among those on second and third tours of duty. The social consequences of this engagement within the US when all troops return will be truly alarming.

The number of U.S. Army soldiers enrolled in treatment programs for alcohol dependency and damaging behaviors such as binge drinking has nearly doubled since 2003. Experts believe that the stress of frequent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan is the leading cause.

On Friday, USA Today reported US Army statistics revealing that the number of soldiers diagnosed with alcoholism or problems relating to alcohol abuse such as binge drinking rose from 6.1 out of 1,000 in 2003 to 11 out of 1,000 in the first six months of this year.

Chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, said that he believed the rising number of US soldiers that have developed alcohol disorders could be attributed at least in part to the eight consecutive years of combat that the soldiers have been engaged in.

"We're seeing a lot of alcohol consumption," Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, told top officers during a briefing on the Army's growing number of suicides.

Even in Muslim countries where alcohol is prohibited, excessive drinking among military personnel in these war zones was still an enormous issue, according to experts attending a conference in New York last month.

Panelists at the conference sponsored by the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse pointed to multiple tours of duty in highly combative zones with limited contact with family or visits to home as being to blame.

For more read here.

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