A new Army report has founded that inattention to rising rates of drug abuse and criminal activity among soldiers and not repeat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan is responsible for the record-high levels of suicide among troops.

The 300-page report, which was released Thursday, said that military commanders are so focused on preparing their troops for war that they’ve allowed troops to engage in risky behavior at home that may lead to suicide.

The 15-month study, titled Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention, said that the vast majority of soldiers who killed themselves — 79 percent — had never been deployed to a combat zone or had been deployed just once.

The report instead blamed the Army’s intense focus on war preparations for “unintentionally” limiting base commanders’ “leadership and management requirements.”

The result, the report found, is that “enforcement of policies designated to ensure good order and discipline has atrophied. This, in turn, has led to an increasing population of soldiers who display high risk behavior which erodes the health of the force.”

The report said that both the use of illegal drugs and the involvement of soldiers in other criminal activities have skyrocketed — and that suicide was one of the results. It called for commanders to more quickly move to eject repeat offenders from the military.

Since fiscal year 2005, 29 percent of suicides included either drug or alcohol abuse, the report found.

“As we continue to wage war on several fronts, data would suggest we are becoming more dependent on pharmaceuticals to sustain the force. In fact, anecdotal information suggests that the force is becoming increasingly dependent on both legal and illegal drugs,” the report found. About one third of soldiers are on some kind of prescription drug, the report found including 14 percent who are taking some kind of pain medication.

Source: Nancy A. Youssef for McClatchy Newspapers.

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