Institute of Medicine calls drinking, drug abuse in U.S. military a "public health crisis"

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(CBS/AP) WASHINGTON - A new study says substance abuse among troops has become a "public health crisis" and Pentagon methods for dealing with it are outdated.

The study by the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, says about 20 percent of active duty service members reported they drank heavily in 2008, the last year for which data is available. And, binge-drinking rose to 47 percent in 2008 from 35 percent in 1998.

Drug abuse is also a growing problem, the report finds. Just 2 percent of personnel on active duty reported misusing prescription drugs in 2002, while the new report found 11 percent of personnel engaged in such abuse.

The study says new methods are needed to help troops. Those include better trained counselors and more outpatient care as opposed to relying so heavily on hospitalizations and residential programs.

"Better care for service members and their families is hampered by inadequate prevention strategies, staffing shortages, lack of coverage for services that are proved to work, and stigma associated with these disorders," Dr. Charles P. O'Brien, director of the Center for studies of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, and chair of the committee that wrote the report, said in a press release. "This report recommends solutions to address each of these concerns."

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Such recommendations include limiting the number of outlets that sell alcohol at military bases, restricting their hours of operation and asking military leaders to encourage members to seek help.

The Institute of Medicine has more information on the study.

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