March 19, 2012

Confidential alcohol counseling plan delayed for Army

Even though Pentagon data shows high rates of alcohol abuse in U.S. soldiers, the Army has delayed a plan that would offer those soldiers access to confidential counseling for drinking problems, USA TODAY reported.

The delay puts a three-year stand still on the program, which began in 2009. Currently, the Army is debating what to do next with the program because there is a high dropout rate. But despite the high dropout rate, there is no disputing the high rates of alcohol abuse recorded in the Army.

According to USA TODAY, one in four GIs now have a drinking problem, and alcohol has been linked to record numbers of suicides, sexual assaults and domestic abuse cases. Also, studies show alcohol has become a form of self-medication for soldiers suffering post-traumatic stress disorder.

And according to Pentagon data, many returning soldiers admitted — during health screenings — that they may have a problem with alcohol.

The stigma of treatment in the Army is the reason the pilot counseling program was set up in 2009 to be confidential. But regardless, last year, the head of the Army Substance Abuse Program said the dropout rate was 70 percent.

New dropout data is pending, and according to reports, the Army wants to see a 30 percent dropout rate before expanding. But Robert Lindsey, president and CEO of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, and H. Westley Clark, head of the Center for Substance AbuseTreatment at the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, told USA TODAY that rate is unreasonable in a civilian treatment program.

To read the entire story in USA TODAY, click here.

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