Back to Top Skip to main content

Walter Reed annual symposium focuses on substance use disorder

Man in lab coat sitting in front of a computer screen Dr. Christopher Spevak, SUDS organizer, conducts the third annual Substance Use Disorder Symposium virtually. (Photo by Sean Patten.)

Recommended Content:

Substance Abuse

In September, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) held its annual Substance Use Disorder Symposium, better known as SUDS. Due to COVID-19 restrictions on gathering size and social distancing, the event was held virtually.

The symposium, developed and coordinated by the National Capital Region Pain Initiative, brought together speakers and attendees from all over the world to share insights and participate in workshops on how the Department of Defense is fighting substance use disorder, or SUD.

The course director, Dr. Christopher Spevak stressed the need for education for all members of the health care team on substance use disorders; especially in light of COVID-19. “We have been tracking the civilian data that shows an increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic,” said Spevak.

Speakers at the symposium shared their experience and insight into SUD. Jennifer Zumwalde, a recreational therapist with the Psychiatric Continuity Services clinic at WRNMMC, stated, “It was beneficial to gain from other people’s knowledge.”

Dr. Marthinus Zeeman, an Army veteran who served on a deployment in Afghanistan, spoke about his experience while serving in ‘a combat zone.’ While deployed, Zeeman found that he and other fellow soldiers all experienced significant stress levels, which led to compensation through different addictive behaviors.

Zumwalde, who works with active duty service members who have experienced extreme trauma of some kind, explained why this presentation was impactful. “I thought it was very powerful for [Dr. Zeeman] to talk about his firsthand knowledge with addiction. Having someone able to share their experience with others is a huge aspect used to encourage future patients to speak out and get help.”

While SUD is found to be a heritable disorder, anyone can become afflicted. Stress, a major contributing factor to SUD, can lead to an individual seeking instant relief through drug use. Stress could be related to combat, sexual assault, trauma, and other factors.

The symposium also shared measures that the DoD is taking to combat SUD. By utilizing drug tests, and being proactive about which substances are most abused, the DoD has seen a significant decrease in drug use amongst service members from it’s all time high during the Vietnam War era.

The DoD also shared two new campaigns to combat SUD head on, the “Own Your Limits” campaign and the “Too Much to Lose” campaign.

The “Own Your Limits” campaign focuses on responsible alcohol use. The campaign, launched in 2019, gives service members information to make responsible choices when drinking, as well as information friends and family can use to talk to service members about alcohol use concerns.

While the “Too Much to Lose” campaign focuses on the risks related to prescription and illicit drug use. By providing fact sheets, interactive quizzes, and information to those close to a service member who may be struggling with risky drug use, the campaign strives to lower use amongst service members.

While the most at risk group for SUD in the military are males between 18 and 24 years old, anyone can be at risk. And although there can be repercussions for illicit drug use by service members, the symposium stressed that there is always treatment for those who need it.

Enduring materials will be made available in the coming months on the NCRPI Enduring Materials website. More information on how to access the website is available by email.

You also may be interested in...

CBD oil off limits for service members

Article
1/23/2020
A service member checks the label on a supplement. Service members must remain diligent and check labels on consumer products and follow official guidance on CBD products. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Leidholm)

The use of CBD products is prohibited for use by service members

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Medical Examiner System | Substance Abuse

Air Force warns Airmen of e-cigarette risks

Article
12/16/2019
An Airman holds an electronic cigarette at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the more than 2,000 cases of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury that have occurred across the country. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Erica Crossen)

Many e-cigarette products have a higher concentration of nicotine

Recommended Content:

Substance Abuse | Tobacco-Free Living

Don’t die for the high: Fentanyl kills

Article
12/11/2019
Due to the increasing relevance of the drug, the Department of Defense added fentanyl and its metabolite, norfentanyl to all service Drug Demand Reduction Program drug tests. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Leidholm)

Fentanyl is up to 100 times stronger than morphine

Recommended Content:

Substance Abuse

DoD adds fentanyl to drug testing panel

Article
11/22/2019
An Airman from the 436th Air Wing inspects a bottle before being asked to provide a urine sample November 8, 2019. The DoD has a zero tolerance policy for the illegal or improper use of drugs by service members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Leidholm)

Fentanyl is an opioid, similar to heroin

Recommended Content:

Substance Abuse | Armed Forces Medical Examiner System

Health agencies investigating severe lung illnesses linked to e-cigarette use

Article
9/12/2019
"While the CDC investigation of the possible cases of lung illness and deaths reportedly associated with the use of e-cigarette products is ongoing, Service members and their families or dependents are encouraged not to use e-cigarette products,” advised Dr. Terry Adirim, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Health Services Policy and Oversight. (DoD photo)

Thirty-three states report 450 possible cases, six deaths

Recommended Content:

Tobacco-Free Living | Substance Abuse | Public Health

DHA PI 6025.15: Management of Problematic Substance Use by DoD Personnel

Policy

This Defense Health Agency-Procedural Instruction (DHA-PI), based on the authority of References (a) and (b), and in accordance with the guidance of References (c) through (aa), establishes the Defense Health Agency’s (DHA) procedures to assign responsibilities for problematic alcohol and drug use identification, diagnosis, and treatment for DoD military personnel.

  • Identification #: 6025.15
  • Date: 4/16/2019
  • Type: DHA Procedural Instruction
  • Topics: Substance Abuse

Breaking the pain cycle

Article
4/9/2019
Ashley Blake, an acupuncture nurse at Naval Hospital Pensacola’s Pain Management Clinic, treats a patient with Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA), one of many opioid alternatives offered at many treatment facilities in the Military Health System. BFA consists of inserting five tiny and sterile 2 mm needles into specific points of the ear where they can remain for up to three days. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brannon Deugan)

Live in agony or risk addiction? MHS pain management initiatives offer options

Recommended Content:

Prescription Monitoring Program | Mental Wellness | Mental Health Care | Substance Abuse | Physical Disability | Warrior Care | Opioid Safety | Pain Management

To drink, or not to drink

Article
11/9/2018
If you are battling substance abuse, consider attending an alcohol-free holiday party or host your own alcohol-free small gathering

If you are battling substance abuse, consider attending an alcohol-free holiday party or host your own alcohol-free small gathering

Recommended Content:

Substance Abuse

DHA PI 6490.02: Behavioral Health (BH) Treatment and Outcomes Monitoring

Policy

This Defense Health Agency-Procedural Instruction (DHA-PI), based on the authority of References (a) and (b), and in accordance with the guidance of References (c) through (k): a. Establishes the Defense Health Agency’s (DHA) procedures for the collection and analysis of BH outcome data. b. Addresses how DoD will standardize BH outcome data collection to: assess variations in mental health and substance use care among in-garrison medical treatment facilities (MTFs) and clinics; assess the relationship of treatment protocols and practices to BH outcomes; and identify barriers to provider implementation of evidence-based clinical guidance approved by DoD. c. Designates the Army as the DoD lead Service for maintenance and sustainment of the Behavioral Health Data Portal (BHDP) in specialty care mental health and substance use clinics, referred to collectively as BH clinics, until BHDP functionality can be integrated with GENESIS or another electronic health record (EHR) system managed by DHA. d. Designates DHA Information Operations (J-6) as lead on transitioning BHDP functional requirements related to outcomes monitoring to future EHR data collection platforms and processes.

DHA PI 6025.04: Pain Management and Opioid Safety in the MHS

Policy

The purpose of our MHS Pain Management Campaign is to enable Clinical Communities to provide evidence-based pain management guided by clinical practice guidelines (CPGs): effectively treat acute and chronic pain; promote non-pharmacologic treatment; prevent acute pain from becoming chronic; and minimize use of opioids with appropriate prescribing only when indicated. The Pain Management Clinical Support Service achieves these ends through clinical improvements in pain care, clinician and patient education, and research. This Defense Health Agency-Procedural Instruction (DHA-PI) is a dual effort between the Pain Management Clinical Support Service and the Clinical Communities to achieve our stated purpose through implementation of the MHS Stepped Care Model.

DoD Instruction 1010.04: Problematic Substance Use by DoD Personnel

Policy

Establishes policies, assigns responsibilities, and prescribes procedures for problematic alcohol and drug use prevention, identification, diagnosis, and treatment for DoD military and civilian personnel.

  • Identification #: DoD Instruction 1010.04
  • Date: 2/20/2014
  • Type: Instructions
  • Topics: Substance Abuse
Showing results 1 - 11 Page 1 of 1

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.