Doping The U.S. Military

flag2Obama and his progressive  cohorts are clamoring for more gun control laws after the recent shooting at Fort Hood, Texas,  again attempting to blame an inanimate object as the root cause of all this violence.   But if Dr. Breggin is correct, the government itself is responsible for the violence.

Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist, author of Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatry Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide and Crime, gets to the heart of the problem.  “The violent tendencies of some mentally traumatized soldiers and veterans cannot be written off as an aberration.”  Such episodes are the result of a “massive prescription drug epidemic” that encompasses the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, in which tens of thousands of soldiers and veterans returning from traumatic tours of duty ingest drugs – in some cases multiple varieties – that have significant side effects, including intensifying feels of rage.

The unprecedented use of prescription drugs began during the second Gulf War continues unabated today.  “The combination of increasing prescribing of such drugs during and after military service has led to violence and suicide and in many cases to chronic mental disability while being treated at the VA, becoming a disability from which they often can’t recover because of multiple psychiatric drugs.”

According to Breggin, the intensive use of prescription medications came about through the influence of the pharmaceutical industry over the military and the VA.  Soon after the start of the second Gulf War, “we saw a sea change in the prescribing of these drugs to our troops.  This cannot be accounted for by anything other than military decisions at the very top that were certainly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, which markets from the top down, then the drugs flow to millions.”

Breggins, who testified before Congress about the doping of veterans, said there is a “disturbing rampant practice” of prescribing psychotropic prescription drugs to young soldiers both in combat and after they return home.” 

Prescription drug use often starts before troops even begin their combat deployments, according to Dr. Breggins who interviewed soldiers who told him that they were told they could not be deployed if they did not accept psychiatric drugs.

A 2012 analysis of drugs purchases made by the Department of Defense found that drug costs ballooned by more than 123%, from $3 million in 2002, to $6.8 million in 2011, outpacing the overall increase in reported pharmaceutical sales in the U.S.  The military spent at least $2.7 billion on antidepressants in the decade after 9/11, and the fee dispensation of meds has continued as the  soldiers’ care passes to the Veterans Hospitals.

Dr. Stephen Xenakis, who was chief psychiatrist at Fort Hood in the 1980s and part of the crisis response team after the 2009 mass shooting, agrees with Dr. Breggin.  “The pharmaceutical companies’ influence is so strong, as are the pressures from Congress to keep things just the way they are.  Congress is lobbied heavily by pharma, making it  difficult to get any endorsement or enthusiasm for any non-pharmaceutical types of treatments.”

Naturally the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs disagree with this assessment proclaiming their efforts to address the problems with the over-prescribing of these drugs, but Xenakis argues that these efforts have fallen short and that not enough is done to evaluate and monitor troubled soldiers and veterans.

The Government Accountability Office agrees.  Their  November 2012 report says that neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of Veterans Affairs effectively manages the medication needs of service members during their transition from active to inactive duty.

Some drive-by media reports of the lastest Fort Hood shooting have attempted to tie the cause to PTSD but Dr. Xenakis, a retired brigadier general with 30 years in the miltiary’s mental health sector,  says the vast majority of people with PTSD do not become more aggressive, and there is about “a 90 percent change” that Lopez [the shooter] was on multiple psychotropic drugs that “definitely could have made him more homicidal.”

Troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, depression, anxiety, paranoia, and other mental health problems are typically put on multiple medications, sometimes as many as 10 or even 15.   Dr. Breggin said that “because Lopez was being treated for depression, he was likely taking an antidepressant known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI.  “This man had the perfect storm of factors pushing him toward violence.  Alleged traumatic brain injury, possible PTSD and antidepressants, all of which loosen inhibitions and self-control, and antidepressants can in fact fuel violence and cause an amphetamine-like effect of overstimulation.”  Add the sleep inducing drug Ambien to the mix, as well as a benzodiazepine drug such as Klonopin or Ativan that Lopez was probably taking for anxiety  and “you get an even greater loss of control.”

The 2014 Physician’s Desk Reference that every patient is supposed to get but no one in the army ever gets, says that Ambien’s possible side effects include more aggressive behavior, confusion, hallucinations and worsening of depression.

The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans affairs have a lot of explaining to do.  Who come up with the ‘brilliant’ idea of doping our troops before sending them into combat and why have they allowed the escalation of prescribing dangerous drug cocktails  to returning veterans, especially when they know it is happening across America.  Is it a deliberate bid on their part to destroy the U.S. military or just plain incompetence?

Want to know more?  Read Medicating our Troops Into Oblivion at the International Business Times.

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