Attrition: Then I Got High


July 6, 2008: While the U.S. military has been regularly checking the troops for drug use, some still find a way to get high. The drug testing has resulted in drug use that is far lower among military personnel than it is with civilians of the same age, education and so on.

But drug use has not disappeared. Even in uniform, some people want a chemically enhanced high, and they find a way to get it. The two biggest sources of semi-legal drug highs are dextromethorphan (or DMX, a cough suppressant found in many non-prescription cough medicines) and inhalants (oil based products, other hydrocarbons and many gases with other legitimate uses). This form of substance abuse breaks out periodically in the military. A base, or ship, will suddenly see a surge in cough syrup sales, or admissions to the emergency room with people suffering from what appears to be asphyxiation (from inhalants) or severe hallucinations (from getting too high). An investigation ensues, the "drug" users are usually caught. Some are tossed out of the service, others given rehab, and things settle down.

Only a few percent of those in the military get caught up with this sort of stuff, and attempts to completely stamp it out have, so far failed. Education programs, and reminders of the health and career risks, keeps the outbreaks infrequent and small.


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