Fighting a War on Drugs: An Army Under the Influence

I knew a lot of guys who came back from Viet Nam who spoke with a mixture of awe and affection of the military issue Dexadrine that was handed out like candy on combat missions. Modern wars and an all volunteer army in which a soldier may serve as many as five or six combat tours require an host of new pharmaceutical accessories for the soldier in the field, as they fight a war on drugs.

The devil is in the side-effects.

After two long-running wars with escalating levels of combat stress, more than 110,000 active-duty Army troops last year were taking prescribed antidepressants, narcotics, sedatives, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs, according to figures recently disclosed to The Times by the U.S. Army surgeon general. Nearly 8% of the active-duty Army is now on sedatives and more than 6% is on antidepressants — an eightfold increase since 2005.”

“The pharmacy consultant for the Army surgeon general says the military’s use of the drugs is comparable to that in the civilian world. “It’s not that we’re using them more frequently or any differently,” said Col. Carol Labadie. “As with any medication, you have to look at weighing the risk versus the benefits of somebody going on a medication.”

True, but the average civilian isn’t carrying a fully automatic weapon in a highly stressful situation while trying to function on insufficient sleep.

Now it has come out that in the case of  Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who is accused of killing 17 Afghani civilians, the defense attorney has requested a list of all the medications that the accused had been prescribed.

Some troops in Afghanistan are prescribed mefloquine, an antimalarial drug that has been increasingly associated with paranoia, thoughts of suicide and violent anger spells that soldiers describe as “mefloquine rage.”

Much more at: latimes

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