If you are a military person who has spent time deployed into a war zone, I am sure your chance of self-medicating the stressful combat situations has popped up. Alcohol was the choice of many troops in past conflicts. Today, with the availability of illicit drugs at low cost and the legalization of drugs, such as marijuana in many parts of the world and in places here in the United States, the availability is greater than it ever has been in the past.

For some of us, the drug use was short-lived — depending upon the reason and type of drug and the stress or boredom or whatever else was the factor involved. Others never got involved with alcohol, drugs or any of these, and escaped with a clean sheet. Just like civilian life, each of us cope differently with each situation.

In general: I certainly don’t think there is hard evidence that all of this drug use in places like Vietnam seriously affected the duty performance in the field. That’s just my thoughts considering my working on Wall Street (after Vietnam duty) and seeing the rampant use of drugs there, but not seeing a great difference in performance on the job of those taking drugs in either place. I’m also sure a percentage would be so involved in drug use as to negatively affect their performance, whether in the service or not.

The military as in civilian life has taken on some harsh consequences for illicit use of drugs and excess alcohol use. Less-than-honorable discharges are possible, and jail time. Because of the consequences of the military or civilian record your chances of landing a good job or even getting a job would be in jeopardy.

In civilian life as in the military your future is at risk because of a mistake in judgement and getting caught. Sad to think that futures are ruined because of misuse of drugs or alcohol.

Society is changing as we learn more about the effects of these substances. Counseling has changed with many other ways of coping with and beating the challenges of substance abuse.

I understand that most in the military or civilian population are able to drink or handle drugs responsibly. Some are not and that is what compelled me to write about this.

This challenge has been with us since the beginning of time and the solutions have taken much longer to solve. Other sides of this problem are the prescriptions and legitimate drugs given for injuries sustained in the field of war and in civilian life after medical operations or pain relief for some ailment.

Sad to think some are left to his/her own devices to handle the follow-through. A bad situation in most cases. The “lazy prescribers” don’t follow through with the patient to make sure the patient is clean and without a challenge.

There is a pattern flowing through this article, and that is the drug or alcohol misconduct part during the normal sequence of civilian and military life. This should not be a stigma that is placed upon a military person that happens to come back from war with a problem. We should be treating them, not turning our back on those who are having these problems with drugs or alcohol.

Myths run rampant within our military, the old ways of doing things are changing. Each branch of the service has its own substance abuse program, with treatment options and disciplinary actions that might take place. The Department of Defense policy requires service members to participate in drug testing. Your commander has a lot of power in what happens as each case is different. One thing, for sure, is the military seems to be less forgiving than civilian life, but as time moves forward this, too, is changing.

As I was doing the research for this story I came across Elvis Presley and the time he was stationed in Europe during his military service. He was in good health and excelled in fitness. During this time while stationed in Germany, as reported by Andreas Schröer, Elvis started down the road of abusing prescription drugs. Apparently his starting never really stopped and he was dead at the age of 42.

The story of Elvis highlights the fact that drug abuse is not isolated. Drug abuse is a difficult habit to overcome, no matter how much money you have or don’t have. Be strong and ask for help, it just might save your future and/or your life.

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” — Robert Collier (Collier was a mining engineer and believer that happiness and abundance were within reach.)

Ronald Verini is a local veterans advocate who writes a weekly column for The Argus Observer. He can be contacted at (541) 889-1978, help@veteranadvocates.org or 180 W. Idaho Ave., Ontario, OR 97914. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of The Argus Observer.

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