The percentage of soldiers being treated for alcohol dependency or abuse has nearly doubled since the start of the Iraq war, USA Today reported.
Soldiers who sought treatment from alcohol abuse counselors increased from 6.1 per 1,000 soldiers in 2003 to an estimated 11.4 as of March 31, according to Army statistics. Stress from ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is likely to blame, the paper noted.
"I’m sure there are many factors for the rising numbers [of enrollments] ... but I can’t believe the stress our people are under after eight years of combat isn’t taking a toll," Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement to USA Today.
The Army has experienced a much smaller increase in enrollments in drug treatment programs — from 3.7 per 1,000 in 2003 to an estimated 4.2 as of May.
Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, told USA Today that identifying and treating substance abuse problems can go a long way toward stemming the sharp increase in soldier suicides, which reached a record 142 in 2008.
Meanwhile, the percentage of Marines who tested positive for drug and alcohol problems has increased 12 percent from 2005 to 2008, according to Marine Corps statistics. USA Today reported that there were 1,060 drunken-driving cases involving Marines during the first seven months of fiscal 2009, compared with 1,430 cases in all of fiscal 2008.
"Alcohol can tie into a lot of things, and we’re just keeping a close eye on it," Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent said.