White House Report Puts Spotlight on Military, Veteran Drug Abuse

WASHINGTON — A recent report on federal government plans to curb drug abuse puts added emphasis on the active-duty military and the veteran population. It also focuses more attention on misuse of prescription drugs and, as far as recovery efforts go, on mental health.   

According to the 2011 National Drug Control Strategy released last month, while illicit drug use remains rare in the military, the misuse of prescription drugs has increased dramatically in that population over the last five years. A 2008 DoD survey showed that 11.9% of active-duty military reported current illicit drug use, including nonmedical use of prescription drugs.

Due to regular drug testing, the use of illicit drugs is still relatively rare, but prescription drug misuse is estimated at 11.5% in the military population — more than double in the civilian population in the same age group (18-64). Also, it has been widely found that injuries and trauma experienced during military service can lead to inappropriate drug use and other negative behaviors later in life.  

DoD has created a Pharmacovigilance Center, the purpose of which is to monitor possible misuse of prescription drugs and assess the effectiveness of prescription policy within the DoD system. However, drug diversion, drug sharing and prescriptions obtained outside of the DoD system may have contributed to the increase in prescription misuse in recent years and cannot be tracked through the Pharmacovigilance Center, according to the report.

In the strategy document released by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), President Obama directed his Cabinet to develop a comprehensive approach to supporting military families, which includes enhancing psychological and behavioral health, and to expand support services not just for active-duty military, but also for Guard and Reserves.

DoD also will partner with ONDCP to enhance that department’s ability to identify misuse by exploring data-sharing capabilities with existing state prescription drug monitoring programs.

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