Army Alcoholics: More Soldiers Hitting the Bottle

Alcohol Abuse in the Army Fuels Legal, Financial, Domestic Problems

Gary Klozenbucher, clinical director of the Army Substance Abuse Program at Fort Riley in Kansas, told ABCNews.com that most of the soldiers they see in treatment are in the early stages of their addiction.

Some come in scared after being referred by a commander, he said. Others are defiant and insist they have their drinking under control. While many come in with a mix of substance abuse issues, alcohol is "absolutely" the most prevalent.

But Klozenbucher wasn't convinced that deployments create alcohol problems.

"The majority of the time, the soldiers that we are seeing that have identified as having alcohol and drug problems after a deployment, most of those soldiers have had some history prior to the deployment," he said. "As far as the development of a drug problem, that can play a major role in the progression of the addiction."

He did concur, however, that alcohol abuse can be a catalyst for a host of other problems seen in Fort Riley soldiers, including legal, financial and domestic issues.

"Certainly we're seeing those problems with our soldiers," Klozenbucher said. "There are a strong relationships with drug and alcohol problems."

Experts -- both current Army employees and veterans -- say the difference between today's soldiers and previous generations is that alcohol is viewed as more of a problem rather than a bonding experience.

"Back when I was in the Army, back in the 1970s and '80s, we assumed drinking was mandatory," joked Larry Scott, an Army veteran and founder of vawatchdog.org, which keeps tabs on programs and news about the Army and Veterans Affairs. "Really don't recall too many people who didn't drink."

Scott even remembered a commander in Korea once pleading with his soldiers to try and keep it to two on-duty drinks at lunch.

"Drinking was as big a problem then as it is now. It just wasn't as highlighted," he said. "I would say they're moving in the right direction."

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