U.S. Senator says Military’s use of antidepressants on troops merits serious investigation

Because of the FDA’s concerns, drug manufacturers have revised their warning labels to state that young adults — 18-24 years old — may be at an elevated risk of suicidal thought and behavior while using these medications.

Approximately 41 percent of our military forces serving on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq are within this same age range. In addition, 40 percent of Army suicide victims in 2006 and 2007 are believed to have taken some type of anti-depressant medication.

To The Editor:
Cumberland Times-News
August 9, 2009

There has been an alarming increase in suicides and attempted suicides among our combat troops in recent years.

There is no denying that soldiers in the field are under great stress, and one of the ways the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has dealt with that stress is to dispense strong anti-depressant medications to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I want a close examination of how these anti-depressants are prescribed and managed in-theater and what impact they may be having on our soldiers.

A particular concern involves the latency period for the effectiveness of such drugs. In an ideal situation, patients are closely monitored for two to six weeks.

However, the demands of combat are not conducive to such close monitoring.

To that end, I am pleased that the Senate has adopted my amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which would mandate a study of the increased use of anti-depressants among combat troops and the impact of these drugs on the mental health of our soldiers.

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