Saturday, November 22, 2008


FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The number of soldiers seeking help for substance abuse has climbed 25% in the past five years, but the Army's counseling program has remained significantly understaffed and struggling to meet the demand, according to Army records.

By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY

About 13,500 soldiers sought drug counseling this year and 7,200 soldiers were diagnosed with an abuse or dependency issue and enrolled in counseling, Army data show. That compares with 11,170 soldiers reporting to drug counseling in 2003, when 5,727 enrolled.

UNDERSTAFFED: Missouri Army drug abuse counseling program cited
Army records show 2.38% of all soldiers had positive results on routine drug urinalysis screening, a 10-year record. In 2004, when combat troops returned from Iraq in large numbers, 1.72% had positive results.

The Army requires one drug counselor for every 2,000 soldiers, yet is currently operating with one for 3,100 soldiers, a chronic shortage exacerbated by the increase in substance abuse cases.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: Iraq Marines Army Secretary Pete Geren Fort Leonard Wood D-Mo McCaskill Army-wide

The problem has been more severe here, where three counselors had been serving 14,000 soldiers and 1,000 Marines — one for every 5,000 troops. In recent months, three more counselors joined the staff.

Les McFarling, director of the Army Substance Abuse Programs, said the Army is authorized for 283 drug and alcohol counselors and despite new staffing this year, is still 38% short of full strength.

Col. Theresa Sullivan, former hospital commander, agreed that the program has had problems but insisted that no one was denied counseling.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is demanding a review of the program after her staff investigated allegations that more than 150 troops at the installation here were denied substance abuse counseling because of a staff shortage.

"If it was that bad at Fort Leonard Wood, it very well could be an Army-wide problem," McCaskill said Wednesday, urging aggressive hiring efforts. "This is about grabbing the military and shaking them and saying, 'Hey, you've got to focus (on this).' "

In a Nov. 12 letter to Army Secretary Pete Geren that McCaskill's staff provided to USA TODAY, McCaskill said the fort's program had been "in shambles" for years.

"How is it that a program can so deteriorate at a time when drug use and alcohol abuse is known to be closely tied to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), suicides, criminal behavior, divorce and domestic abuse, all of which have substantially increased in recent years in the Army?" McCaskill wrote.

USA TODAY reported last month that narcotic pain-relief prescriptions for injured troops jumped from 30,000 a month to 50,000 since the Iraq war began, raising concerns about potential drug abuse and addiction.


Anonymous said...

Cork, you're gonna see more troops coming back with spikes in their arms as well. It's probably going on now, but you don't see it on Faux News. Let's face it, the present theaters of war are dope city. Combine that with the boredom, no "red light" districts to go to, availability of LEGAL drugs, the whole scene's a recipe for disaster. Now I've been accused of being "against the troops" for pointing (on other blogs) this out, but I AIN'T. I AM against the Generals, Admirals in bed with the lowlife PNAC-ers (who I believe should have a choice between a firing squad {with full-chambers for all the riflemen} or being drawn and quartered) and the military-industrial complex who foment these wars, brainwash the populace and the kids to want to go (under the guise of "serving my country"; serving the government or serving the state is truer). Ever read that "comic" book called "Addicted to War"? It may be illustrated, but it makes sense. War addiction using borrowed money, I might add, leads to drug addiction among the troops. It's only a matter of time before the fallout busts loose.

Bill Corcoran said...

Anonymous: Thanks for your well thought out comment. I'll have to look for "Addicted to War." Thanks again for writing.

Bill "Cork" Corcoran

Frances said...

These people could undergo group sessions for substance abuse counseling since they share one thing in common - being soldiers of war. Then again, some of them might opt for individual counseling if that's what they'd like.

Bill Corcoran said...

Frances....Thanks for your comment.