Prescription drug abuse has skyrocketed among American soldiers in recent years. Over the past decade, the military has spent $1.6 billion on painkillers such as OxyContin and hydrocodone, while $2.7 billion has been spent on anti-depressants and more than $507 million on sleep medications such as Ambien, according to this article. In addition, military physicians writing pain reliever prescriptions to military members quadrupled from 2001 to 2009, nearly 3.8 million, the article notes.
The article cites a government report last year that called for measures to address the problem, including training healthcare providers to better recognize and screen for substance use problems and refer patients to appropriate, evidence-based treatment. There are many obstacles that still need to be overcome, that report noted, including a lack of available services, inadequate insurance coverage for effective outpatient treatments, and a cultural climate in which drug problems are stigmatized and evoke fear in people suffering from them.