1990s, the U.S. Army has forbidden troops access to alcoholic beverages while
in a combat zone. This was greeted with the same dismay that accompanied the
U.S. Navy banning booze on ships in 1914. Back then, it was Christian
conservatives imposing their will (and voting strength) on the armed forces. This
time around, it was the mass media, who loved to see troops, combat and booze
mixed vigorously together. Splendid stories, as least as far as ratings,
circulation and ad revenue goes, resulted.
Both soldiers and sailors
responded to the ban by finding other ways to get high. The most obvious
solution was the hidden still, where homemade hooch was produced in small
quantities, and consumed in secret. Because of the random drug tests the
military has been using for decades, illegal drugs are not an option. But
certain industrial substances are. "Sniffing" and "huffing" have become popular
off-duty activities. The sniffables are glues, petroleum products and the like.
The huffables, are largely compressed gasses. The most common one is compressed
air, for blowing dust out of equipment. Because there's so much dust in Iraq
and Afghanistan, there's lots of those cans to be found. The "compressed air"
isn't breathable air, but inert gasses that create oxygen deprivation when
inhaled. This creates high, but it can also make you sick, or kill you.
There's also alcohol from
local sources. In Iraq, the local Christians have long been permitted to brew
and distill alcoholic beverages. While Islamic conservatives have attacked that
in the past few years, there is still alcohol available from civilian sources.
Same deal in Afghanistan, although you are more often dealing with other
There are periodic crackdowns,
especially when a victim shows up in a hospital. But the stuff keeps coming
back, and always will, although on a much smaller scale than when booze was
legal in the combat zone. Many troops just make do with XBox, weight training
and legal drugs, like chocolate.