Sometimes many of us might feel like we want to do something more for our troops. These people have put their lives on hold, left their families, and risked injury and death to fight for our country. Ask any soldier and they will tell you that it is rewarding when they are applauded by onlookers at an airport, or thanked by civilians at the mall. But it seems that we should be doing more to thank them than a quick hello and thanks when we see them out and about in their uniform, or standing for them when they pass by in a Fourth of July parade.
Soldiers and Substance Abuse
One area that we can help our soldiers with is substance abuse. Soldiers have always struggled with substance abuse. Their tasks are stressful and traumatic, leading to mental illness sometimes, and self-medication with drugs or alcohol other times. There are so many veterans from wars throughout the years that now live lives of addiction and alcoholism. Too many soldiers go on to be homeless or depressed, or plagued by some other addiction or illness, all because of the things they experienced while fighting for our freedom.
Opiate Production in the Middle East
Recent statistics suggest that substance abuse, especially opiate abuse, is rapidly increasing among our soldiers today. The actual numbers state that there was a nearly 500% increase in soldiers enrolled in substance abuse counseling for opiates between 2004 and 2009. It could be that more soldiers are just now reporting substance abuse and getting help for it. But authorities believe that at least part of the jump in recent years is due to an increase in addiction, due to an increase in the availability of opiates.
Afghanistan is the world’s leading opium producer, and our soldiers have at times become their buyers. With an increase of troops in Afghanistan, our soldiers are put right in the middle of the opiate production. Opiate abuse is more common among Afghan forces, but it also affects U.S., Canadian, and NATO troops. Many people who are taking note of this issue are concerned not only about the way opiate abuse affects our soldiers, but also about the way it benefits the Taliban. When Afghans sell their opium, the sales help fund the Taliban’s efforts. This group taxes poppy farmers and the processers of the drugs, giving us another reason to keep our troops away from opiates.
Treatment for Soldiers
We as a country need to set up better prevention techniques, more screening opportunities, more effective treatment programs, and better long-term care for our troops. Every soldier should be screened for substance abuse and mental illness, and be encouraged to come forward and get help for these problems. The sooner after the conflict that a solder gets help, the better the chance at recovery. We need to educate our soldiers more effectively on how to manage stress and avoid drug abuse in the first place. When drug abuse does occur, we need to follow up with treatment designed specifically for soldiers.