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Soldiers' alcohol problems alarm Army officials

Dec. 6, 2013 - 07:54AM   |  
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HONOLULU — Army officials in Hawaii are worried about the prevalence of alcohol abuse within the ranks, a problem a national organization also reports is on the rise among members of the military.

The Army is discussing an “alarming increase” in drunken driving by soldiers returning from conflicts to Hawaii and life on base.

“Recently, there has been an abundance of (DUI) incidents by members of the U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii,” Col. Mark Jackson wrote in Hawaii Army Weekly, a base newspaper, last month.

There were 74 cases of impaired driving between July and October, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://bit.ly/1d1d6C7) reported. That included 51 incidents off post.

Army officials weren’t immediately able to compile data from other time periods for comparison.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says illicit drug use is lower among military personnel than civilians. Zero tolerance for drugs likely is a reason, it said. But heavy use of tobacco and alcohol, as well as abuse of prescription drugs, is more common and is increasing, according to the institute.

“Those with multiple deployments and combat exposure are at greatest risk of developing substance use problems,” the institute said. “They are more apt to engage in new-onset heavy weekly drinking and binge drinking, to suffer alcohol- and other drug-related problems, and to have greater prescribed use of behavioral health medications.”

Alcohol and prescribed-drug use in the armed forces constituted a “public health crisis,” the Institute of Medicine reported last year.

In Hawaii, a substance abuse “prevention education team” provides training to military personnel all year. All soldiers take four hours of the training annually, U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii spokeswoman Stefanie Gardin said.

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