Former Soldier Re-Enlists to Fight Addiction in the Military

By Paul Gaita 10/30/14

Frank Greenagel has returned to active duty in order to wage war against the growing scourge of drug addiction in the military.

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After serving in the U.S. Army more than a decade ago, Frank L. Greenagel took up the fight against prescription drug abuse by serving as a recovery counselor at Rutgers University’s Recovery Housing, and later chaired a task force to reduce heroin use in New Jersey. Now he has returned to active military duty to confront what he has described as a “massive problem” with drug addiction in the armed services.

On October 24, Greenagel reported for active duty with the Pennsylvania National Guard, where he will act as a behavioral health officer counseling military personnel with substance abuse issues and post-traumatic stress disorder. He also hopes that through his new position, he will be able to make a direct impact on military policy regarding soldiers and drug abuse.

Prescription drug abuse in the military is higher than among civilians and has shown a dramatic increase in the last decade. A report from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy indicated that drug addiction numbers among active duty service members rose from 5% to 12% between 2005 and 2008.

“The saddest cases are the ones where the soldiers were put on prescription drugs by the military and then it became a problem,” Greenagel noted. His own reasons for returning to the National Guard were motivated by a soldier and former student who became addicted to painkillers after serving in the Middle East.

After being dishonorably discharged, the soldier became addicted to heroin and turned to Greenagel for help. Greenagel’s new assignment will help to identify soldiers who are either developing or struggling with abuse problem while also educating officers on the telltale signs of drug abuse.

Currently, the Department of Defense has a zero-tolerance drug police, but as Greenagel noted, the decision to discharge a soldier for failing a drug test often falls to their commanders.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.