By Martha Rosenberg
August 1, 2010
Why are troops killing themselves?
The long awaited Army report, “Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, Suicide Prevention” considers the economy, the stress of nine years of war, family dislocations, repeated moves, repeated deployments, troops’ risk-taking personalities, waived entrance standards and many aspects of Army culture.
What it barely considers is the suicide-inked antidepressants, antipsychotics and antiseizure drugs whose use exactly parallels the increase in US troop suicides since 2005.
In the report Chief of Staff General Peter W. Chiarelli acknowledges antidepressant risks, saying there’s “fair quality evidence that second generation antidepressants (mostly SSRI) increase suicidal behavior in adults aged 18 to 29 years” but adds that “other research evidence shows the benefit of antidepressant use”.
And nowhere does he acknowledge the suicide potential of antiseizure drugs so widely used for pain and as “mood stabilizers” by troops even though the FDA mandated suicide warnings on Lyrica, Topamaz, Depakote, Lamictal, Tegretol, Depakene, Klonopin and 16 others in 2008.
(Lamictal also has the distinction of wasting more taxpayer money than any other drug according to a July American Enterprise Institute report. Medicaid spent an unnecessary $51 million on Lamictal instead of buying a generic last year, thanks to GSK salesmen. You go, guys,)
When asked by NPR’s Robert Siegel if the high number of medicated troops contributed to suicide, Gen. Chiarelli said, “The good thing about those numbers is…the prescriptions were all made by a doctor.” Asked why troops who had not even deployed were among the suicides, Chiarelli said there were other stressors involved.
In June Marine Times reported 32 deaths on prescription drugs in Warrior Transition Units (WTUs) since 2007 and said an internal review “found the biggest risk factor may be putting a soldier on numerous drugs simultaneously, a practice known as polypharmacy.”
But instead of citing dangerous drugs and drug cocktails for turning troops suicidal (and accident prone and at risk of death from unsafe combinations) the Army report cites troops’ illicit use of them along with street drugs. (The word “illicit” appears 150 times in the Army report and “psychiatrist” appears twice.)
No, it’s not the 8,000 urine samples in 2009 which showed prescription drug traces according to the Army report — it’s the fact that 21 percent of the drugs were “illicit.”
No wonder the revised suicide report form suggested by the Army report doesn’t even have a box to enter “adverse reactions to drug or drug combinations.” Instead, it has a box that asks how long before a suicide a patient was “compliant” with the prescription. Was the medication “taken as prescribed? Skipped?” Taken “In excess of prescription? In different manner (e.g., crushed instead of in capsule)?”