Drug abuse in wars: was it a problem?

I’m not talking about alcohol, but rather pot, cocaine, heroin, acid etc. if you go by Hollywood, then drug use/abuse was widespread in Vietnam, but is this just artistic license?

I’m not just interested in this question vis-a-vie Vietnam, but Korea & WWII as well.

I tried Google but only got references to VA hospitals, which was nice, but wasn’t **quite ** what I was looking for.

Thanks in advance.

Depends what you mean by “problem”. And a problem to who or what?

In WWII and Korea, there were significant numbers of wounded soldiers who got hooked on painkillers. Does that count? But availability, to any kind of drug, was not so widespread.

In Vietnam, troops were in or near growing areas, and among people who used drugs as currency. So, much more availability.

And for a soldier scared shitless in a war he didn’t understand, not sure who the enemy was, drugs were a solution, not a problem. The problem was the fear, the solution was drugs.

Drug use, however, was certainly a problem for the military institutions.

My father was in the British Army in North Africa in WWII and subsequent adventures and he told me that Marijuana was widely used by himself and his colleagues. They called it “kif”.

One reason for this usage was the comparitive unavailability of alcohol. When booze was available it was the drug of choice.

Amphetamines have been widely used in the British Armed forces until quite recently (they were referred to as “Belfast Bullets”) but this was with official approval.

My ex-BF was in the Soviet equivalent of Special Forces in Afghanistan. He said hash and opium use was a HUGE issue, for many many reasons; lack of alcohol in Afghanistan, proximity to growing/trafficking areas, and the complete despair and loneliness of the troops. The troops brought their problems back to Russia with them, too.

Soldiers tend to do anything the can… partly because there is a great deal of aiting around. Drugs are one ay of dealing with it. Usually, they don’t do harder stuff, though. I guess its one thing to be good and liquored up, and another to face the enemy while on Crack.

Military drug abuse also tends to be characterized by short periods of very heavy use. odier’s supplies of it are usually rather poor, and if you go into battle tommorow, you’re less likely to hold onto extra supplies.

Cecil sez:
Did the U.S. Civil War create 500,000 morphine addicts?

I heard a story a long time ago and given what you posted maybe you could ask your BF if it is true.

As I heard it the Soviets were wondering at the higher than normal failure rates (mechanical) of their tanks. Upon investigation they found that the tank crews were drinking the transmission fluid (or hydraulic fluid or something like that). Apparently it would give you a buzz and nevermind the consequences when you aren’t sure you’ll live another day.

I’d love to ask him more about that, among many other things, but he’s not my BF anymore and I haven’t heard a peep out of him in nearly ten years…but that’s a LOOOOONG story.

He’s probably in Russian military intelligence by now, that is, if he’s not fighting with the Chechens or with the Northern Alliance or something. So he’s not the most reachable person in the world.

And I’ve heard many similar things about Soviet tank crews and other military folks. Apparently they’d even drink filtered shoe polish if they got desperate enough.

A friend of my parents became very addicted to heroin while serving in Vietnam. He says that it was very easy to get…which makes sense…that area of the world is known for it’s opium production.

And here’s where it gets interesting: He claims that the Vietcong would spread little packets of heroin all over the areas that would soon be occupied by American forces. They made sure heroin was impossible to avoid in a deliberate attempt to hook American soldiers. And there do seem to be a disproportionate number of Vietnam Veterans that arrived back in the states with heroin addictions.

It might be well to recall a rather early example:

(Chaper IX)

Having served in Viet Nam, I can say there were a lot of drugs there. We used to joke that there was no drug problem in country. It only became a problem when you left. Then it was harder to get. That was a problem.

This will sound like a gross generalization, but I would estimate that between 70 to 80 percent of the enlisted personnel smoked grass and possibly as many as 50 to 60 percent of the junior officers smoked it. I could be underestimating the usage, but I doubt that I am much overestimating it.

Most of the brass were of a different generation and didn’t seem to do that much marijuana.

Now when I say “smoked it” I don’t necessarily mean they did it until they were paralized. Some just did a hit or three in the evening to help them sleep, some did a few hits to be “one of the guys,” etc. To be sure there were a few guys who picked up a joint to take the edge off the morning and continued the rest of the day taking the edge off and while not exactly rare, not everybody was like that.

If you wanted anything else you could get it and I knew military personnel in all branches that did just about everything. I remember a signals noncom that called in an artiliary and aircraft strike on an empty rice paddy so he and some friends could watch the light show while on LSD. To maintain his validity he even turned in a body count afterwards.

The packets of heroin left by the VC, basically crap. I know I never heard of it happening and that is one of the things that would have gotten around. And get real, nobody (even stoned) was stupid enough in a war zone to use anything left around by the enemy. Besides, if you wanted heroin, you could get it at virtually any of the shops in the nearest town.