Effects of Substance Abuse among the Ranks of US Army Soldiers

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The Effects of Substance Abuse among the Ranks of U.S. Army Soldiers Introduction The New York Times reported recently that suicides are on track for becoming the most common cause of death for members of the military in 2012, higher than the number dying in combat (Williams, 2012). Although suicides have occurred in all branches of the U.S. military, the Army accounts for a full 53% of the total number (AFHSC, 2012a, p. 7). The stress of combat is believed to one of the primary contributing factors to the dramatic increase in suicides among veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The stress of combat can precipitate a debilitating and sometimes lethal mental condition called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while a common co-occurring condition, major depression, can lead to suicide ideation (Hoge and Castro, 2012, p. 671). The increase in the prevalence of traumatic brain injury is also contributing to the increase in suicide rates, as these veterans try to cope with their war injuries while returning to their civilian lives. A common sign of mental health issues surrounding PTSD and major depression is abuse of alcohol and/or drugs (U.S. Army, 2012, p. 28). To better understand the possible role of substance abuse as a coping mechanism for combat stress, and its aftermath, this essay will examine what is known about the prevalence of substance abuse within the ranks of the U.S. Army and veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Substance Abuse
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