Heavy alcohol use and binge drinking among U.S. military service members has gradually risen in recent years. Prescription drug abuse doubled to 4 percent between 2003 and 2005 and has since nearly tripled to 11 percent. With these troubling trends in mind, the Institute of Medicine released a new report today detailing a set of evidence-based recommendations on improving prevention, screening and intervention practices of substance use disorders among members of the military.

The report, requested by Congress to investigate the severity of these issues and identify a set of solutions for curbing the problem, called for an increased emphasis on strategies to prevent substance use disorders, improved access to care among military members and a strengthened Substance Use Disorders workforce within the Department of Defense.

“The Affordable Care Act is going to have a major impact not only on the treatment of substance abuse in military but prevention of substance abuse in communities at large,” said Charles P. O’Brien, MD, PhD, chair of the committee that authored the report.

O’Brien noted that the adoption of electronic health records, for example, will vastly improve practitioners’ efforts to intervene earlier when a substance abuse disorder can be detected and prevented from getting worse.

Abuse and addiction to prescription opioids have grown incredibly and become a significant cause to the development of substance abuse.

“It is important to say that treatment of pain is a skill that is partly art, partly science. If someone prescribes a monthly prescription of pain, that’s wrong. And that’s likely going to lead to more problems,” said O’Brien.

Read the full report, “Substance Use Disorders in the U.S. Armed Forces.”