Pentagon Reports that 1 in 4 Iraq Veterans Returning with Medical and Mental Problems
As Veteran's Day approaches, (Friday, November 11th ) the Drug Policy Alliance is urging people to support the troops by calling their representatives to push for treatment instead of incarceration for veterans who are self medicating due to the trauma of fighting in Iraq.
One out of four veterans from Iraq returns to the United States with health problems that require medical and mental heath, according to a survey released by the Pentagon which was obtained by USA Today.
The survey, provided to USA Today by the Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine, reports that almost 50,000 service soldiers this year alone returned with problems ranging from battle wounds to suicidal thoughts to strained marriages. 1,700 veterans returning from Iraq this year report wanting to hurt themselves or that they might be better off dead. Nearly 20,000 reported nightmares or unwanted war recollections.
Substance abuse experts and veterans groups warn that soldiers dealing with such problems are known to have higher rates of substance abuse problems. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, 76 percent of veterans experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems. The Drug Policy Alliance is urging compassion and treatment for the veterans who self medicate with drugs because of the trauma of war.
"It is easy for people to buy a bumper sticker and demand that we 'Support the Troops', but if we are going to walk the talk, we better offer treatment--not a jail cell--when we help our brothers and sisters heal from the damages of war," said Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance. "U.S. prisons are already filled with non-violent drug offenders, many serving long sentences for small amounts of drugs. Service members being incarcerated and separated from their families because of a drug addition will be yet more 'collateral damage' of this war.