The armed forces face stressful, life-altering events every day, with many soldiers facing extreme conditions for a decade or more during their numerous deployments. With all of the stress, trauma, and change, it is no wonder that alcohol and illicit drugs have become a problem in their ranks. However, when drinking interferes with the work that saves lives and is linked to other rampant destructive behaviors like suicide and sexual assault; the armed forces are desperately trying to cut down on the use of alcohol in their ranks. The Navy and Marines have introduced a powerful new program to reduce the consumption of alcohol while on duty.
Thankfully, initiatives have been taken and programs are continuing to be put into effect. In 2012, the Navy and Marines introduced plans to start randomly breathalyzing personnel. By 2013, the Navy had gone a step further and said that it will conduct random blood alcohol tests, and any sailor with a .04 will not be allowed to work that day. In addition, the Air Force introduced plans to begin randomly testing for the cannabinoid “Spice.” These measures seem to signify good news for our armed forces, both at their jobs and for their personal lives.
The jobs of those who are in the armed forces involve being alert at all times and available to switch into high gear at the drop of a pin. Alcohol hinders those abilities, and that can endanger missions and lives. However, these tests are not simply beneficial because they save face and lives – they can show warning signs for those who may need psychological treatment, as well as substance abuse treatment.
It is important that these signs be seen so that those who are suffering can get the treatment they deserve. Much of what our armed forces have seen and done are beyond the realm of imagination, cause a lot of psychological damage, and when these experiences are carried home, they can often manifest into domestic violence and suicidal ideations, as well as severe personality changes. These tests offer a tiny insight into what may be a way of predicting who is at high-risk, so that the proper people may be notified. They are not designed to be punitive; rather they are designed to be helpful.
Irresponsible drinking and illicit drug abuse have long been a part of the culture of the armed forces, but it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. While there are consequences to any action, it is important to remember that these tests are designed with everyone’s health and benefits in mind. If these newer ideas can help identify high-risk armed forces participants and help to get them treatment, it can hopefully make a difference.
Isn’t that what it’s all about – making a difference? They make a difference in so many people’s lives, and this could make a positive difference in their own lives, as well as in the lives of the people they love and who love them.
Hodge, Nathan. “Navy, Marines to Start Random Alcohol Tests.” wsj.com. 6 March 2012. 25 January 2013.
Tritten, Travis J. “Air Force to increase testing for Spice.” stripes.com. 19 March 2012. 25 January 2013.
Vergakis, Brock. “Navy says its sailors in US will be subject to random blood-alcohol tests beginning next month.” abcnews.com. 2013. 25 January 2013.