Over 6,400 British troops treated for alcohol abuse in last four years and 170 developed mental health problems
New UK government evidence shows that in the four years since 2012, the equivalent of 10 infantry battalions of soldiers has required medical treatment for alcohol problems.
Massive alcohol harm in armed forces
The figures show that alcohol problems were far higher in the Army with 4,562 soldiers requiring medical treatment compared with the 639 RAF personnel and 1,242 members of the Royal Navy, needing attention.
Alcohol problems amongst some troops were so severe that over 170 servicemen and women developed mental health problems.
The conditions included:
- Chronic alcoholism,
- Acute alcoholic hepatitis,
- Alcoholic paranoia,
- Cirrhosis and chronic liver disease and
- Chronic alcoholic brain syndrome.
Pervasive alcohol norm, intoxicating environment
Ex-soldiers say the Army alcohol norm was one of the main reasons for the massive alcohol-related problems.
According to The Sun, Steven Van Derbank, 29, who used to be a non-commissioned officer in The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, explained the pervasive alcohol norm:
The [alcohol] culture in the military – literally from when you start – everything you do really is rewarded with alcohol. On average on a bad day – where I wasn’t really in the mood – it was probably four to five pints a night.
On a good day it could be trying to keep up with a lot of people who obviously do [consume] a lot more, and it could be anything from 10 to 15 pints a night.”
UK Military not doing enough to prevent problems
Many senior officers believe that alcohol-related problems in the armed forces now poses a greater danger to the military than narcotic drugs. But the current approach to harm prevention has been ineffective.
According to The Sun, Prof Neil Greenberg, an expert on military health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:
For many years the military have relied heavily on alcohol education, so for instance soldiers would have to have a brief every year that tells them [alcohol use] is bad for them.
The problem is we know that alcohol education doesn’t really work at all, and the evidence from the civilian population is that it’s a terribly ineffective way of stopping people from [using alcohol].”