Sharp Rise in U. S. Military Psychiatric Drug Use and Suicides
By Bruce E. Levine
April 2, 2010
One in six service members is now taking at least one psychiatric drug, according to the Navy Times, with many soldiers taking “drug cocktail” combinations. Soldiers and military healthcare providers told the Military Times that psychiatric drugs are “being prescribed, consumed, shared and traded in combat zones.”
The Navy Times reporters Andrew Tilghman and Brendan McGarry also noted that there has been a large increase in military suicides. From 2001 to 2009, the Army’s official suicide rate increased from 9 per 100,000 soldiers to 23 per 100,000. During that same period, the Marine Corps suicide rate increased from 16.7 per 100,000 soldiers to 24 per 100,000.
A Military Times investigation of records obtained from the Defense Logistics Agency revealed that the DLA spent $1.1 billion on psychiatric and pain medications from 2001 to 2009, and that there was a 76 percent increase in psychiatric drugs. DLA records show:
• Antipsychotic drugs spiked most dramatically — orders jumping by more than 200 percent.
• Orders for anti-anxiety drugs and sleeping pills such as Valium and Ambien increased 170 percent.
• Orders for antiepileptic drugs (also known as anticonvulsants) such as Depakote, routinely used as psychiatric medications, increased 70 percent.
• Antidepressants showed a 40 percent increase.
Investigators found that antipsychotic and antiepileptic drugs, approved for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, are now commonly used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms such as nightmares, nervousness, and anger outbursts. The use of antipsychotic drugs for non-psychotic conditions such as PTSD is called “off-label” prescribing. The general public is also subject to off-label prescribing, which is considered legal.
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