December 2020 | Page 6


The home front

Despite high levels of problematic substance use among ex-services personnel , the ingrained forces mentality can mean a reluctance to seek help – something that also extends to their families , says Robert Stebbings

Whilst the

majority of serving personnel successfully transition out of the forces and back into civilian society , sadly it is also the case that many veterans encounter difficulties with substance use . Alcohol consumption plays a significant role in military culture , having done so for many years , and unsurprisingly this can translate to alcohol dependency amongst former members of the armed forces in subsequent years , whilst issues around drug dependency also exist .
Such substance use problems rarely exist in isolation and the presence of a number of cooccurring problems , such as mental health , violence / abuse , criminal

Force for change

We need to better serve those who ’ ve served , says Ray Lock

Back in the eighties ,

I was based near Düsseldorf as one of around a hundred thousand members of British Forces Germany . Friday night was happy hour – although it carried on until midnight . Saturday night was often a formal dinner , and Sunday a jazz lunch . Long before it became popular in the UK , Warsteiner lager had gained the nickname ‘ wobbly ’ for the effect it had the morning after . Alcohol was tax free , the only drugs taken were Brufen and life was good ( if you discounted the threat of nuclear Armageddon ).
Life for members of the armed forces in the 2020s though has changed – most are based in the UK and increasingly they and their families are integrated into local communities . Alcohol use has certainly fallen , and the Ministry of Defence has been trying for some years to lower consumption among its people via health strategies . Sadly , a recent initiative to introduce an annual check has been suspended due to COVID-19 , although the ministry ’ s intent is clear . But the steps taken so far fall well short of those recommended by the Commission on Alcohol Harm . When I ran a large base in Wiltshire , we had over a hundred separately licensed bars selling
Edward Dyer / Alamy