More American Soldiers Seeking Treatment for Opiate Abuse

Posted on May 5th, 2010

As opiate abuse continues to increase across the country, it’s also increasing among American soldiers. Pentagon statistics obtained by FoxNews.com and confirmed by the Army show that the number of soldiers entering treatment for opiate abuse—such as morphine, codeine, heroin, and some prescription drugs—has jumped nearly 500 percent. When the U.S. began surging troops into Afghanistan, the world’s leading opium producer, this number skyrocketed.

In 2004, 89 American soldiers enrolled in the Substance Abuse Program for opiate addiction; in 2009, the number leaped to 529. Army troops in Afghanistan were at 14,000 in 2004, and soared to 46, 400 at the end of 2009.

U.S Army spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said the military has been monitoring the problem and is concerned about it, adding that prescription drug abuse has been an increasing problem.

Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, an Army Reserve officer who served in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2004, says the accessibility of heroin and other opiates in Afghanistan must be part of the problem. He told FoxNews.com that heroin abuse was prevalent when he was in Afghanistan, and that U.S. bases would trade goods to the locals in exchange for heroin.
He added that the abundance of heroin and high stress levels can lead to hard drug abuse.

The statistics were obtained by the watchdog group Judicial Watch, which requested them through a Freedom of Information Act inquiry. Chris Farrell, director of investigation with Judicial Watch and a former Army intelligence officer, said he wanted to examine how the abundance of opiates in Afghanistan was affecting U.S. troops.

David Rittgers, a former Special Forces officer who served in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004, said that many soldiers may abuse painkillers and other drugs after they return home because of pain from injuries or trouble readjusting to life back home.

Interestingly, although the numbers of soldiers seeking treatment have increased, the number of soldiers testing positive for opiate use hasn’t increased. The Army data shows that in the past three years, soldiers tested positive for heroin use only twice.

Source: FoxNews.com, Judson Berger, Number of Soldiers Seeking Opiate Abuse Treatment Skyrockets
 

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