A drug symposium held May 16 at Pope Theater Annex provided information about trends prevalent in today’s drug culture.

Hosted by the 16th Military Police Brigade, information presented at the Inaugural Drug Symposium indicates that drug or alcohol use is co-mingled with the prevalence of violent sex crimes in the military.

“The data shows they go hand-in-hand,” said Mark Bridgeman, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command manager and a presenter at the symposium.

According to the 2016 Army Crime Report, 69 percent of Soldier-on-Soldier violent sex crimes involve drugs or alcohol. Also, 47 percent of violent sex offences are committed on a military installation, while 32 percent of aggravated assaults involve alcohol consumption.

Also, 38 percent of overdose deaths can be attributed to drugs, with 16 of the 22 being opioid-related.

There are a lot of different drugs on the market, Bridgeman said, with CBD products being an emerging threat. According to research obtained from alternet.org, CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-intoxicating component of the cannabis plant (used for marijuana production) that causes a buzz. It is typically used to treat conditions, including chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and other conditions.

Daniel Stanley, a colleague of Bridgeman’s, described some of the common names for marijuana such as weed, ganja, blunt and Mary Jane; common names for heroin as skag, smack, H and junk; and for prescription drugs as red birds, candy, tranks and yellow jackets.

Officials said the way forward to combating sexual offenses and assaults and to preventing drug overdoses is tied to annihilating the abuse of drugs and alcohol by service members.

Commanders need to be aware of the symptoms and signs of drug use and be willing to talk about substance abuse, Bridgeman said. They must learn interpersonal skills and establish relationships with their Soldiers.

“You just can’t wait for the information to come to you,” he said. “If you don’t know about it, how can you mitigate it?”

Leaders must be aware of the strategies that service members may use to avoid detection of substance abuse.

For instance, they can practice “gaming the system” by seeking others to give them a clean urine sample, seeking substances to mitigate the effects of drug use in their systems and seeking windows of opportunity to illegally use substances.

But, leaders can take measures to successfully implement effective drug testing.

Bridgeman said they can conduct testing on the weekend, as well as change which unit administers drug testing to another unit.

“We cannot arrest our way out of substance abuse,” Stanley explained.

Other avenues of determent include having leaders contact CID to schedule drug awareness briefing for units, coordinating with CID and military police for health and welfare inspections and monitoring the barracks.

Many law enforcement and substance abuse treatment experts who attended the symposium seemed to find the information valuable.

“It helps us to understand the scope of the problem with drugs and alcohol and how it affects force readiness, how it leads to force reduction,” said Michael Lambert, risk reduction coordinator, Army Substance Abuse Program. He spends time advising commanders about how to mitigate at-risk behavior.

“This helps me break it down to their (commanders) level of understanding and how it impacts their Soldiers,” he said.

The symposium helps show the seriousness of the drug problem, said Spc. David Frank, a three-year military veteran and a Soldier assigned to the 16th MP Bde.

But, it does something else.

“This training/briefing helps eliminate the drug problem because we know that it’s out there and we know what to look for,” Frank said.

If one suspects illegal drug or alcohol activity on Fort Bragg, notify the chain of command or contact law enforcement personnel.

The 16th Military Police Brigade provides law enforcement and force protection on Fort Bragg. For more information, like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/16th.MP.Brigade.