One of the most frequent injuries is represented by the traumatic brain ones.. amongst other symptoms, one can mention anxiety, severe depression. Headaches and the difficulty to reason clearly. PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder is also manifested through depression, insomnia, flashback.
It is important to underline that these psychological disorders are usually associated with drug abuse. Taking this into consideration, it can be underlined that we are dealing with a social phenomenon. Most soldiers do not have the psychological training needed in order to do what they need to do once in combat. War has never been and could never be a pretty things, so the atrocities that these young men witness or are forced to do, shake them up psychologically. The use of drugs is to be understood in close connection to this factor.
Depression is not a factor that can be ignored. And there is no time for soldiers to be properly treated while in combat. If there is no severe physical wound, he will have to go back to the former routine as soon as possible. This is why soldiers are given antidepressants and sleeping pills.
If they are not prescripted pills, they turn to self-medication. Valium is the most popular drug from this point-of-view, as it helps them acquire a minimum peace of mind. Valium, just like other drugs in its category is addictive.
When soldiers are caught with drugs on them, they are most often charged with possession. The punishment consists in a period to be spent in jail or in discharges based on misbehavior.
If the soldier in case is about to leave on a mission or is already there, the punishment becomes more severe. The punishment is usually served in the Kuwait prisons. If the unit is to leave Iraq, than the offender risks having to remain there while awaiting his trial. If a veteran is caught with drugs he is arrested.
The situation is like this: wars are a less than perfect machine. The victims of wars are not only the civilians who get killed, but also the soldiers. Vietnam is not Iraq, nor Afghanistan, but they have so many things in common. The atrocities that the soldiers witness and the psychological reactions which are triggered.
It is highly interesting to notice how the situation repeats itself. Soldiers become depressed. They do not know how to face fear, panic, shame and all the other feelings which occur in battle. They are not given time to rest when fatigue steps in. therefore the solution is the same as it was almost fifty years ago. And this solution is represented by drugs.
Cocaine was and is popular amongst soldiers fighting nowadays in Iraq and Vietnam. Opiates, marijuana, as well as painkillers are realities that need to be dealt with because drug addiction does not end when the soldier comes home. On the contrary it makes things worse for everybody and a lot of tragic endings can be quoted in order to support this statement.
Drug use has become an adjacent reality to the one represented by war. Addiction and its consequences contribute to turning the entire situation into a social phenomenon. The punishments for drug use and drug possession are not enough of a solution, compared to the problems that drugs are chosen to solve (depression, nightmares, exhaustion, insomnia, fear, etc.).
The army was not able to deal with the problem during and after the Vietnam war and apparently things have not changed much, despite the official declarations regarding the small number of soldiers who use drugs.
Allen, T., the Iraq war-on drugs, 2006, March 20, 2008 http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/2670/
Alcohol and other drugs plague soldiers in Iraq, March 20, 2008 http://www.jointogether.org/news/research/summaries/2005/alcohol-and-other-drugs-in.html
Kelly, R., U.S. soldiers in Iraq suffer horrific brain and mental injuries, 2004, March 20, 2008 http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/nov2004/sold-n20.shtml
Millitary Drug Programs, March 20, 2008 www.jackson.army.mil/Directorates/Asap.htm
Robins, L., Davis, D., "Drug use by U.S. army enlisted men in Vietnam: a follow up on their return home," American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 99, No.4: 235-249, March 20, 2008 http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/99/4/235
US Veterans addicted to drugs, March 20, 2008 http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=e26_1196398831
Vietnam era drug problems last for decades," Psychiatric News, Volume 36, Number 18, 2001, March 20, 2008 http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/36/18/20