From One Hell to Another

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A recent report on MSNBC tells the sad tale of U.S. soldiers returning from war only to then become addicted or attempt suicide. Video Clip

Those of us who remember Vietnam recall how the availability of drugs in-country led to many addictions that came home with returning soldiers. For Iraq and Afghanistan, the mechanism is a little different, but still sadly familiar. Soldiers who cannot access drugs while actively serving find them an attractive escape from painful memories when they return home.

The first part of the clip talks about a young soldier who became addicted to cocaine, at least partly due to a failure to receive proper care for the stress she suffered while in a combat zone. This is a common path to addiction -- self treatment and escape from problems.

MSNBC blames a lack of proper mental health treatment for the rise in drug use and suicide, but the evidence isn't entirely clear. What is clear is that too many young soldiers are trading the hell of combat for the hell of substance abuse.

With public attention focused on veterans' issues, we hope that the story plays out differently than forty years ago. Veterans who become users need to be treated as having real medical problems and not simply discharged as embarrassments.

More information about the Army Substance Abuse Program can be found here.

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