Updated: September 7, 2011 12:32AM
WASHINGTON — The number of troops abusing alcohol has roughly doubled in the last five years as soldiers go through the stressful cycle of training, serving in the wars, readjusting to home life and then doing it all over again months later, an Army health official says.
Some 13,000 soldiers were treated for substance abuse last year, all but about 1,900 for alcohol and the rest for drugs like marijuana and cocaine, said Dr. Les McFarling, head of the Army’s substance program.
McFarling said officials have found no direct link between the abuse and the number of deployments some soldiers have served. But “a typical thing for somebody coming back if they’re having troubles adjusting or PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome), is to have a glass of wine before you try to go to sleep ... or two, or three,” McFarling said. “It’s a socially acceptable way of dealing with stress.”
The army is increasing its staff of substance abuse counselors by about 30 percent to help the rising number of troops with alcohol problems.
Officials posted 130 new job openings this week in hopes of increasing staff to counsel soldiers at bases around the world from the current level of around 400.