Former soldier Frank L. Greenagel Jr. has been out of service for 10 years teaching high school English, being involved in his own counseling center for drug abuse, running a task force to combat youth heroin use as well as a recovery house at Rutgers University. He has been involved in fighting drug abuse among the young people in New Jersey through his speaking engagements meetings for six different associations.
At age 38 he is returning to the military, however, to lend his expertise on drug addiction and substance abuse. Greenagel has expressed concern for the level of prescription drug abuse in the military and hopes to provide counseling and guidance to get soldiers through addiction recovery. He also wants to help shape military policy in a way that would address the problem of substance abuse among soldiers and veterans.
Greenagel's Choice to Rejoin the Military
Ex-soldier Greenagel began his second term of service on October 24th with the Pennsylvania National Guard as a behavioral health officer. His job is to provide support and counseling for soldiers with substance abuse problems and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Although he has not been a soldier for a decade and has been involved in many other projects related to fighting substance abuse, Greenagel was influenced to rejoin the military by one of his students at Rutgers. This student served in the Middle East as a Marine and was prescribed painkillers after being wounded in combat.
As a result of this prescription he became addicted to the medication and was discharged dishonorably due to his substance abuse. After leaving the military, the student became addicted to heroin and fell deeper into his abuse.
He eventually reached out to get help from Greenagel who placed him in the recovery house he managed in Rutgers. After hearing this students all-too common story, Greenagel was convinced to return to the military to help other soldiers escape the cycle of addiction.
Substance Abuse Among Soldiers
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the level of prescription addiction in the military is higher than civilians and the numbers continue to rise. The amount of active duty service members involved in illicit use of prescription drugs increased from 5 percent in 2005 to 12 percent in 2008.
Local commanders can decide whether they will discharge a service member when they fail a drug test. Greenagel's job is to identify those in the military who are beginning to develop an abuse problem. He will work to get soldiers who are abusing drugs into recovery and also attempt to save their military careers by education leaders on addiction and abuse.
Like his former student, many soldiers develop a problem with prescription drugs after being provided medication by the military. Greenagel was active in the military in 1996 and continued to work following the September 11th attacks until he was discharged in 2002.
He discovered a passion for counseling after a close friend overdosed and died on a combination of crack cocaine and alcohol.
Even though running a recovery house has been his "dream job", Greenagel also hopes to have a positive impact on what he considers a massive problem in the military. He has impacted the lives of many Rutger students but working with soldiers and veterans is equally important to him.
He believes he can make a significant contribution to the mental health of soldiers and provide them the support they need to receive addiction treatment without ruining their military careers. His passion for counseling and teaching will be an important element in improving the current situation with drug abuse in the military.