In a recent Time op-ed, veteran Army psychiatrist Elspeth Cameron Ritchie unpacks the Defense Department’s substance abuse policies. The DoD commissioned the Institute of Medicine to study the problem of substance abuse disorder (SUD) in the military and how the various branches of the armed services deal with the problem.
Substance abuse in the military typically involves alcohol, and after two long wars, military alcohol abuse is a continuing concern. But the report also pointed to a new form of substance abuse: prescription drugs. The military has always been a reflection of America, and like in civilian life, abuse of pills also affects the armed forces.
Dr. Ritchie highlights three recommendations from the Institute of Medicine’s report that would improve the way the armed services deal with SUD. The report made many other recommendations, but we agree with Dr. Ritchie that implementing these three solutions would get immediate results.
The first is addressing the need to treat SUD with an integrated medical and psychological approach. Under current policies, a soldier reporting for SUD treatment is not referred to a military hospital but to Installation Management Command. In addition, the DoD guidelines for treating SUD are woefully out of date and haven’t been revised in more than ten years. In the meantime, the field of SUD treatment has advanced tremendously, especially in the area of evidence-based methods.
The second most pressing recommendation is the need for confidentiality. Under current DoD policies, if a soldier seeks treatment for alcohol abuse, that request automatically goes on his or her permanent record. This lack of privacy discourages military personnel from seeking treatment that is readily available. Although the Army has an experimental confidential program in place, the report recommends making confidentiality a strict consideration in all military branches.
Finally, Dr. Ritchie explains from personal experience that SUD treatment programs in the military suffer from a serious shortage of trained professionals. The constant lack of SUD treatment specialists was hampered by the inefficient government hiring process. The report mentions the advantages of restructuring this hiring process, which Dr. Ritchie agrees would be an important step in creating more efficient SUD treatment programs both stateside and in the field.
The Institute of Medicine’s Report Highlights the Value of Drug Rehabilitation Centers
Methods for treating substance abuse have advanced greatly in recent years. In the past, the traditional 12 step program was the only viable option. But new methods have begun to replace the 12 step mindset, including holistic treatment and evidenced-based treatment methods. These treatment methods were first tested at private and public drug rehabilitation centers all over America. In these facilities, dedicated to helping people take back their lives, theory and practice continually come together to improve the chances of success.
Reports like this often guide future policy, so we share Dr. Ritchie’s hope that the Department of Defense will soon begin implementing all of the report’s recommendations. We keep our finger on the pulse of the latest news in the treatment of substance abuse.
If you or a loved one needs help, contact drugrehab.org today.