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Drug, Alcohol Treatment Available to DoD Beneficiaries

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2001 – DoD aggressively treats drug and alcohol abuse in family members and retirees as well as active duty service members.

"Addiction is an illness. It's a medical condition that requires identification and treatment and rehabilitation," said Roger Hartman, a health policy analyst with the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.

Military and family members identified as substance abusers will receive counseling and treatment, Hartman said. He noted that active duty members who use illegal drugs will typically be separated from their service.

"There was a time years ago that we would counsel and rehabilitate and try to return drug abusers to duty," he said. "But in this day and age of high technology and sophisticated systems, we can't afford any lapse in performance or behavior on the job."

Whether drug abusers step forward and ask for help or wait to be caught by urinalysis testing can make a difference on their future employment prospects. Members who self-refer themselves for treatment could be administratively separated from the military as opposed to punitively separated, Hartman said.

"With alcohol, the military is a bit more tolerant because it's a legal beverage if you're over the age of 21," Hartman said. "We encourage early identification of those who do have a drinking problem, referral into an appropriate level of counseling and treatment, and then return to duty and participation in an after-care program."

The same counseling and treatment services are available to family members and retirees. Hartman said DoD has been a leader in the field of substance abuse treatment for 30 years and uses the standards established by the American Society of Addiction Medicine. "We have quality programs characterized by stringent certification requirements for our counseling staff and accreditation requirements for the facilities themselves," he said.

Hartman said he believes the nature of substance abuse is similar, whether the substance be drugs or alcohol. "The substance becomes something that begins to control and take over the life of the individual," he said. "Everyone's use of drugs or alcohol starts out experimentally. I don't think anybody ever sets out to become an alcoholic or a drug addict, but for some that path ultimately leads to addiction."

There are many avenues individuals seeking help for substance abuse can take. They can seek help through the military medical system, base community or family counseling centers, chaplains or their chains of command, Hartman explained.

Ultimately, Hartman said, substance abuse is a readiness issue. "Substance abuse treatment is part of the overall effort to get our people as healthy, as fit and as ready as they can to do their job as a military member," he said.

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