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Six out of Ten Soldiers are Alcoholics


Tuesday, January 6th, 2009 Six out of Ten Soldiers are Alcoholics

Can we trust our soldiers? The Independent’s Chris Irvine (22 12 08) highlights that six in 10 soldiers could be considered alcoholics with reference to a Ministry Of Defence (MOD) report.

Inexcess have followed a few stories in relation to the armed forces and their mental health issues and they are very worrying.

This recent report by the MOD critically evaluates the drinking and drug-taking habits of it’s Army recruits. It’s findings were very serious in that 58% were “considered possibly dependent on alcohol” and drinking at levels considered a health hazard.

Notwithstanding, from the soldiers point of view, it is the drinking culture of the Army that actively encourages binge drinking and drinking to excess.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. They report identified that six in 10 soldiers had six or more drinks in any one session, with one in five admitting they were unable to stop drinking once they started.

It was also established that a third of the soldiers interviewed admitted to injuring themselves or someone else as a consequence of their drinking.

Moreover, and extremely alarming was the fact that approximately 6%f the civilian population drink at levels which indicate dependency - but this report concludes that the Army figure was 10 times higher.

Notably, it was also established that excessive drinking was a key factor in drug-taking and many soldiers admitted to probably would not have taken drugs had they not been drunk.

However back in 2007 according to the Telegraph’s Richard Gray, who writes on an impending report that will lay bare the extent of alcohol abuse among the country’s military personnel, claiming that “ritualised drinking”, operational stress and the macho culture fuels excessive drinking.

Doctor’s then were expressing their concerns and went on to specifically criticise the military’s “ambivalent” view on alcohol abuse.

More significantly, they also warn that a significant proportion of the armed forces are drinking in a way that is “detrimental to their health, the safety of themselves, their colleagues and wider operational effectiveness”.

The report reveals that 17 per cent of men in the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force have severe drinking problems where they are drinking more than 25 pints in a week.

As indicated earlier the report was conducted in November of last year, interviewed more than 100 soldiers at three locations - Redford Barracks in Edinburgh, Longmoor Camp in Hampshire and Larkhill Camp in Wiltshire.

One soldier, quoted anonymously, said: “I didn’t really think I’d change at all in drinking, because I didn’t like the taste of alcohol really. But then I joined Army life and they take you out on the piss and I got my first taste for Jack Daniel’s. And then I was spending near enough most of my wages because I was going out two nights a week drinking.”

The outcome of this very damaging report highlights that the Army needed to conduct an “immediate investigation into the medical and disciplinary context within which alcohol issues are treated in the Army”.

The Ministry of Defence has said it had now put in place support programmes, particularly for when soldiers are known to drink the most, after tours of duty.

A spokesman said: “All three services run robust programmes designed to raise awareness and promote the message of sensible drinking. The sale of alcohol and individual consumption limits are strictly regulated, particularly when personnel are serving operationally.”

He added: “Individuals identified as being at risk receive counselling and welfare support including attendance on preventative early intervention programmes.”

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