Published: 25 March 2021 at 15:47
Research looked into treatment of people dismissed from Armed Forces for drug use
A report published today has highlighted the “inconsistent” and “harmful” process facing people dismissed from the Armed Forces because of drug use.
The report entitled “Fall Out”: Substance misuse and service leaders: a qualitative investigation into the impact of a Compulsory Drug Test (CDT) discharge, was led by Galahad SMS and Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and funded by the Forces in Mind Trust.
Between 600 and 770 serving personnel return a positive CDT result each year, with cocaine cited as the most commonly reported drug used. However, for the research participants there was little evidence of a clear protocol for referral onto pathways for treatment and support. Many experienced anxiety and uncertainty, and some reported harsh and humiliating treatment compounding feelings of vulnerability, isolation and shame.
Very few participants received psychological, social or transition support, and two thirds perceived a decline in their mental health following discharge, whilst the majority continued using drugs and alcohol.
The report outlines some pre-Service indicators amongst the participants in the study such as previous mental health diagnoses, adverse childhood experiences and drug use prior to enrolling. Many participants saw the military as an opportunity to escape these environments and distance themselves from substance misuse.
Following the completion of the study, the MOD has confirmed that personnel discharged as a result of a CDT will now be entitled to resettlement support. Resettlement support was not available to participants of this research and it is hoped that this change in policy will better prepare CDT discharges in future for the transition into civilian life. The report also highlighted opportunities for intervening earlier to help such individuals.
All participants spoke positively of their time in service, although there were also challenging circumstances which some had struggled with including bullying, poor treatment and not fitting in, which reportedly led to substance misuse. Participants also reported barriers to support, such as the stigmatisation of mental health.
The report, which is being presented at the Veterans Mental Health Conference today, suggests that alcohol, which was perceived to be an integral part of service life, inadvertently encouraged other forms of intoxication.
Associate Professor Matt Fossey, Director of the Veterans and Families Institute for Military Social Research (VFI) at ARU, said:
Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of FiMT, said:
Simon Bradley from Galahad SMS said:
“That the Forces have the right to discharge personnel who are in violation of policy is not in question; none of the participants would contest this fact either, although many in the study felt themselves to have been highly proficient in their military roles and felt that they were deserving of a second chance. The issue is how the discharge process is managed to minimise further harms and ensure that it does not exacerbate underlying problems.
“Having shared preliminary findings with the MOD at various stages of the research process we hope that our work has contributed in some way to recent policy updates and approaches seeking to improve and broaden access to health, wellbeing and transition support for service leavers.”