Drug use during wars is as old as war itself. The use of alcohol and drugs in war has lasted for centuries, from Siberians using mushrooms to Iraqi and Afghani soldiers using amphetamines. Even though these drugs were used to boost stamina and performance during conflict, they caused a great deal of havoc among users.
Reasons Why Soldiers Used Drugs
During war, soldiers may turn to drugs for a variety of reasons, including:
- To boost performance: Soldiers may use stimulants to remain alert and fight longer even when fatigued.
- For pain and injury: Morphine and opioids were frequently used to treat wounds and relieve pain after going to the battlefield.
- As an anesthetic: Morphine was used as an anesthetic for amputations in the filed during war.
- For socialization: Soldiers used to gather to drink alcohol during wartime. It helped them bond and interact with each other.
- To relax: Soldiers also often turned to alcohol and drugs because they were bored and wanted to relax.
- For managing stress and pressure: Soldiers may believe that drugs can help them relieve the stress and pressure they were subjected to in combat.
Drug Use in the Civil War
The Civil War was reportedly the first conflict with instances of substance abuse. Morphine was widely used during this war. It was considered an anesthetic, painkiller and cure for diarrhea. When the war ended, an estimated 400,000 soldiers were addicted to morphine.
Drug Use in World War I
World War I is sometimes referred to as the Tobacco war. The government gave cigarettes to soldiers to help them relax. Before the war, less than 0.5% of people in America were smokers. After the war, more than 14 million people used cigarettes daily.
Drugs Given to Soldiers in WW2
Amphetamines were used often during World War II. The highest number of amphetamine users between 1939 and 1945 were soldiers. The Nazis introduced Pervitin, a form of crystal meth patented in 1937. The drug was widely marketed to soldiers with the belief that it helped boost confidence, fight fatigue and enhance energy and performance.
The Germans also made chewing gum from cocaine to help soldiers stay alert. However, the results were not pleasing because many soldiers suffered mental breakdowns from prolonged use of the drug.
Drug Use in the Vietnam War
The most commonly used drug during the Vietnam War was Speed. The government issued over 200 million tablets of dextroamphetamine to soldiers between 1966 and 1969. The drug was much stronger than Benzedrine given during World War II, but these small pills were distributed like food with no attention to the frequency of use or proper dosing.
Speed wasn’t the only drug used during the Vietnam War. Other Vietnam War drugs included marijuana, heroin and opium. At least 50% of soldiers consumed marijuana, and about 30% used opium and heroin.
Drugs in the Military Today
The use of alcohol and drugs in the military is still a problem that plagues soldiers today. Soldiers consume more alcohol than civilians, with almost half of all active military members admitting to binge drinking in a survey conducted in 2008. Illicit drug use is less common, but prescription drug addiction is on the rise. Research indicates that prescription drugs, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, are widely used. Red Bull energy drinks and Dexedrine pills are also commonly abused.
Many veterans come home only to struggle with substance abuse, PTSD and other mental health issues. The government, addiction treatment centers and mental health support experts must come together to address substance abuse during war and provide support for military members and veterans.
To learn more about alcohol and drug treatment programs, call our qualified therapists at 877-352-9566 or reach out to us today to get the support you need.