Substance abuse prevention

  • Published
  • By Airman Zeeshan Naeem
  • 325 FW PA

Misuse of substances is more commonplace than what many may think, according to a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2020 there was an estimated 17 percent of veterans diagnosed with alcohol use disorder. However, alongside alcohol, caffeine and nicotine are some of the most abused substances not only within the military, but the U.S. itself, said Tech. Sgt. James Kendrick, 325th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron mental health interim flight chief.

Service members from the 325th OMRS mental health unit advocate for substance abuse awareness with the Air Force Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program.

“For ADAPT, our main objective is to promote readiness and guide our patients to a better path,” Kendrick said. “We work towards minimizing negative consequences of substance misuse to the individual, their families and the organization they belong to.”

The program provides comprehensive education treatment to people who have experienced problems attributed to abuse of substances in order to restore their function and return them to unrestricted duty.

There are several potential warning signs to recognize substance abuse in an individual including a heightened tolerance where the substance is no longer giving the same effect as it used to. Another significant sign is withdrawal, where the user is facing adverse consequences to their mental, physical or social health.

“If a user is hiding or downplaying their usage, I think that’s one of the first key warning signs of abuse,” said Kendrick. “When recurrent use starts interfering with involvement in, or obligations to, major roles in your life like your role at work, school, or home, we highly recommend coming to visit us at mental health.”

Airman Isabella Barrow, 325th OMRS mental health technician, said she understands the negative stigma of career consequences with visiting mental health, however from her perspective, a service member should prioritize their wellbeing not only for themselves but to ensure mission success.

“It’s important to seek help as early as you can when you see an issue with your substance usage,” said Barrow. “The further you go with abusing substances, the worse the problem becomes. Alcohol for example, destroys your brain slowly and causes permanent liver damage if overused.”

One of the most common age ranges for substance abuse in the military is younger service members under 21. Not only are there physical and mental issues caused by misuse at an earlier age, but the Air Force has strict policies against underage alcohol use.

“Underage consumption of alcohol or drugs can cause permanent brain damage and restrict development,” said Barrow. “It’s vital to ensure people aren’t developing bad habits at a young age.”

In the U.S., people of legal drinking age misuse substances as well as drinking and driving being a major cause of death or injury. To confront the problem, Tyndall hosts an Airmen Against Drunk Driving program in which personnel can be safely escorted back to the base or residence by a volunteer driver.

“There are plenty of resources for fighting substance abuse,” said Barrow. “From seeing us at mental health for the ADAPT program, Airmen Against Drunk Driving, speaking with your chaplain, or just reaching out to a friend. The hardest part is taking that first step and asking for help. Once you do, you’ll be able to create a better life for yourself and your community.”

For more information or help with substance abuse, call the 325th Fighter Wing chaplain corps at 850-283-3397, or the 325th Medical Group mental health clinic at 850-283-7511.