Alcohol, drugs and lucky charms

A recruiting party, including infantry and light dragoons, drinking and smoking in a tavern, 1805

Dr Fiona Reid explores the ways soldiers have dealt with the demands of conflict throughout the history of the army.

Napoleon’s troops took hashish in Egypt. Soldiers of the Crimean War became addicted to opiates. And in the First World War the British army re-introduced the rum ration.

Throughout the 20th century, European and American fighting troops also smoked heavily and sometimes used more benign ways of coping with wartime stress, such as carrying cards, lucky charms and amulets.

Dr Fiona Reid, Associate Head of Humanities at the University of South Wales, asks whether these types of coping mechanisms are useful for helping men deal with the demands of conflict. At what point does self-medication become destructive? And what role should the army play in monitoring and controlling substance abuse?

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