Alcohol and drug abuse essay









Alcohol and Drug Abuse

SGM Lynne S. Jackson

United States Army Sergeants Major Academy

Class 46

SGM Jeremy Hendrix

1 March 2020













Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Alcohol and drug abuse in the United States Army is an ethical dilemma and prevents military personnel from carrying out military roles. Substance abuse affects productivity in the workplace as well as affects the ability to make informed and sound decisions. Substance abuse can result in problems related to readiness, mental and physical health as well as the discipline of the service members. Alcohol and drug abuse create issues in a unit hence causing disruptions on the existing coherence required to improve the safety of soldiers. Leaders must lead from the front by setting precedence to solving the emerging dilemma among soldiers. This essay is geared to offer senior leaders the ability to utilize their leadership centric skills to cope with emerging ethical dilemmas or issues within the Army. This essay will also expand the senior leader’s understanding since it connects the current or generally underserved ethical issues and their impacts on the army profession.

Risk Factors for Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Active Military Personnel

There is no proven reason for military personnel to indulge themselves in alcohol consumption and substance abuse. However, numerous risk factors contribute to increased substance use among military personnel. The unique risk factors that contribute to these behaviors among the military is the combat experience and military culture.

Combat experience is the most salient risk factor that can have a close connection with substance abuse among the armed forces. Most soldiers are deployed in combat zones to protect the citizens. Soldiers resort to alcohol and drug abuse to relieve stress and trauma. Most of the military personnel often believe that when they consume alcohol, they can mediate stress in the aftermath of the battle. For instance, during World War I, soldiers were offered a drink of rum before heading to war (Jones & Fear, 2011). Jones and Fear suggested that British soldiers were granted spirits before and after the battle of Waterloo. The primary reasons were to ensure that they could release stress and develop some form of recreation. This is because, at times of war and attacks, the service members witness deaths and severe injuries to their colleagues, which affects their mental health.

Another risk factor is that military culture contributes to alcohol and substance abuse among military members. Drinking is perceived as an accepted part and parcel of military, cultural behavior. Most service members turn to alcohol as a coping strategy to deal with challenges associated with military life. Alcohol is readily available on military bases at hugely discounted rates hence enabling the service members to afford drinking opportunities often viewed as drinking rituals.

Most military service personnel openly refer to themselves as social drinkers. Some small social bashes among the service members occur at the end of a workweek, on-field day, and form a more significant part among military ceremonies such as celebrations for retirements and promotions. The military socio-cultural practices promote intake amongst the service members to increase social ties. As a result, some military members give in to the social pressure and begin drinking alcohol.

Effects of Alcohol and Drug Abuse to Service Members

The risk of suffering from Substance Use Disorder (SUD) among military personnel is real. According to Teeters et al. (2017), SUD refers to a disease that influences one’s brain functionality as well as behavior and leads to an incapability to control the utilization of either legal or illegal drugs and medications. Recent studies reveal that service members deployed in regions experiencing conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan, indicate significant instances of higher rates of SUD diagnosis compared to the civilian population. For instance, 44 % of service members that returned from deployment experience transition challenges.

Alcohol consumption results in trauma and substance use disorders among users. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a mental health condition is likely to occur as a result of exposure to traumatic events. Teeters et al. (2017) assert that symptoms such as hyperarousal, negative cognitions and avoidance of trauma reminders can occur. According to Teeters et al. (2017), PTSD attests to a higher prevalence rate of 18 % among post deployed service members compared to the civilian population. It also suggests that 6.8 % of Army soldiers usually experience PTSD in comparison to the general population. The combination of PTSD and SUD among patients can result in severe consequences targeting medical personnel (Manchester, Eshel & Marion, 2017).

Military personnel were permitted to consume alcohol even when they were on active duty operations. Wallace, Wallace, and Weeks (2008) assert that the military had taken a liberal stand on alcohol consumption in comparison to the whole country. Military personnel had the freedom to consume alcohol before they reached their legal drinking age outside the military base. However, in 1982, legislation was enacted to compel service members prohibiting military recruits from consuming alcohol before reaching the same drinking age as prescribed by the state where the military base was situated. Consequently, the U.S. military adopted the sweeping changes in alcohol policies in the 1980s. The primary objective was to prevent, detect, as well as allow treatment of alcohol abuse. At the same time, the campaigns on alcohol deglamorization, health promotion, as well as soldier duties and responsibilities, are introduced.



Ethical Issues to Offer a Solution to Address Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Military culture has played a significant role in enhancing how military personnel consumes alcohol, which results in PTSD and SUD, resulting in mental issues. An ethical solution is needed to create adjustments and change the service members’ mindset. The military setting need to come up with ethical organization culture adjustments that solve the menace in the sector (Kangas et al., 2018).

Leaders must develop an ethical culture within the organization to guide soldiers’ actions and decisions. The current culture supports the massive consumption of alcohol among soldiers. An ethical culture must be developed through the development of systems that are aligned to promote ethical behavior. Rather than promoting alcohol as a stress reliever to the service member, leaders can adopt aggressive counseling to the post deployed officers. For an extended period, people have endured deceit that alcohol is the ideal cure for stress to the men and women in uniform.

Senior leadership in every organizational setting plays a crucial role in the development of the organization’s ethical culture. Leaders’ integrity levels should be high enough to motivate subordinate staff to become professional and take their roles responsibly. Therefore, senior leaders must create a form of a reputation for the junior officers in the ranks to emulate. This calls for the development adoption of the moral person and the moral leader dimensions (Kem, 2016).

Reward Systems

Leaders can come up with a performance management technique that ultimately offers adequate support to ethical behavior among soldiers. It is because some of the members engage in alcohol and substance as a result of frustrations since they are poorly motivated. Despite the crucial role played by military personnel, they are poorly remunerated hence increasing instances of depressions among the services causing them to resort to drugs.

Developing and Adjusting the Ethical Culture

The cultural analysis depicts that the organization’s culture often influences ethics at work. Leaders in the organization have a crucial role in reinforcing different behavior. Leaders can decide to eliminate alcohol consumption from the military base. This is because most of the soldiers consume alcohol due to its availability. Some military personnel consume alcohol right before reporting to work, which distorts daily activities and affects judgment.

Alcohol and drug abuse have long been an issue for the U.S. in as well as out of the workplace. It is associated with consequences such as low productivity, diseases alongside premature deaths. Therefore, military leadership has a huge responsibility to change the culture that supports consumption of alcohol among service members. There is a need to enact legislation and ensure total implementation to eradicate these vices in the military workplace (Kem, 2016).

Using Ethical Lenses to Determine the Solution

The ethical lenses inventory is defined as a tool utilized to assist individuals in responding to the questions as well as assist one become more aware of their values. The ethical lens inventory includes the rights or responsibility, the results, relationship, and reputation lenses (Aguilar & George, 2019).

Leaders utilize the responsibilities’ lens to make decisions to improve the welfare of the service members. Leaders in this category value respect as well as hope their work benefits others.

The results lens is used by leaders who rely on emotion as well as intuition to determine the right course of action. Leaders utilize this approach to value mutual respect and individual responsibility. The reputation lens requires leaders to sensitize the rights of the community as well as rely on rational thought. Leaders are utilizing this approach to value compassion for others.


Alcohol and drug abuse in the United States Army has long been an unsolved dilemma. This is because military personnel continue to resist the socio-cultural changes designed to eradicate these issues from the service members. Leaders must proactively utilize ethics in the dissemination of their duties and responsibilities. There is a need to carry out aggressive campaigns sensitizing service members on the effects of alcohol and drug abuse.














Aguilar, S., & George, B. (2019). A Review of the Linkages between Emotional Intelligence and Leadership in the Military Forces.

Jones, E., & Fear, N. T. (2011). Alcohol use and misuse within the military: a review. International review of psychiatry23(2), 166-172.

Kangas, M., Kaptein, M., Huhtala, M., Lämsä, A. M., Pihlajasaari, P., & Feldt, T. (2018). Why do managers leave their organization? Investigating the role of ethical organizational culture in managerial turnover. Journal of Business Ethics153(3), 707-723.

Kem, J. D. (2016). Ethical Decision Making: Using the ‘Ethical Triangle,’. In 2016 CGSC Ethics Symposium.

Manchester, J., Eshel, I., & Marion, D. W. (2017). The benefits and risks of energy drinks in young adults and military service members. Military medicine182(7), e1726-e1733.

Teeters, J. B., Lancaster, C. L., Brown, D. G., & Back, S. E. (2017). Substance use disorders in military veterans: prevalence and treatment challenges. Substance abuse and rehabilitation8, 69.

Wallace, A. E., Wallace, A., & Weeks, W. B. (2008). The US military as a natural experiment: changes in drinking age, military environment, and later alcohol treatment episodes among veterans. Military medicine173(7), 619-625.

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