Federal Legislation Proposes Investigating Connection Between Psychiatric Drugs and Veteran Suicides

Data suggests that every 65 minutes a veteran takes his or her own life. This is unacceptable. One way to address the problem is to determine if any associations exist between suicide and medical treatments our veterans may be receiving for service-related conditions. — David Jolly, Florida Congressman (R-FL 13)

By Kelly Patricia O’Meara
Published by CCHR
The Mental Health Watchdog
April 7, 2016

Finally, federal legislation has been introduced that specifically addresses the connection between psychiatric drugs and the role they play in the increased number of veteran suicides.

Florida Congressman, David Jolly (R-FL 13), determined to understand the reasons behind the staggering number of veterans taking their own lives, has submitted legislation calling for a review of veterans suicide deaths over the last five years, studying the psychotropic drugs prescribed to veterans at the time of their death.[1]

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a mental health industry watchdog, applauds Congressman Jolly’s legislation, the Veteran Suicide Prevention Act (H.R. 4640).[2] While many studies and reviews have been conducted by a host of government entities to determine the causes behind the increased number of veteran and military suicides,[3] Congressman Jolly’s legislation is the only review to specifically question the psychiatric drug treatments that have become the mainstay of military/veteran mental health care. The need for this kind of comprehensive review is backed up by years of data.


Every day 22 veterans commit suicide and one in six American service members is on at least one psychiatric drug.

For example, 22 veterans commit suicide every day and one in six American service members is on at least one psychiatric drug.[4] The VA’s mental health budget has soared from less than $3 billion in 2007 to nearly $7 billion in 2014.[5] From 2005 to 2011, the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration increased their prescriptions of psychiatric drugs by nearly 700 percent—that’s more than 30 times faster than the civilian rate.[6] The Veterans Administration found that 80 percent of veterans diagnosed with PTSD were given psychiatric drugs and, of these, 89 percent were treated with antidepressants.[7]

This is of note given that antidepressants carry the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) black box warning for causing suicidality for those younger than 25—the age range of 41 percent of deployed American soldiers.[8] The side effects of antidepressants include hostility, anxiety, mania and abnormal behavior to name a few.

Congressman Jolly’s legislation, although directed at the causes behind the increased suicides, may also shed light on the violent/homicidal behavior exhibited by an increasing number of service personnel and veterans.

Ft. Hood shooter, Ivan Lopez, who killed three and wounded 16, was receiving mental health care and had been prescribed Ambien, antidepressants and other medications to treat anxiety and depression.[9] Iraq veteran, Bradley Stone, accused of killing six family members, had been receiving mental health services and had been taking the antidepressant Trazodone, and the antipsychotic, risperidone[10], and Navy Yard shooter, Aaron Alexis, who killed twelve and wounded eight others, had been prescribed Trazodone.[11]

The FDA’s MedWatch adverse drug event reporting system reveals that between 2004 and 2012 the federal agency received more than 14,000 reports on psychiatric drugs causing violent side effects. The vast majority of these psychiatric drugs have never been studied in combination, and most of the drug “cocktails” have never been approved by national drug regulatory agencies. In fact, there are 22 international drug regulatory warnings on psychiatric drugs, citing effects of mania, hostility, violence, abnormal behavior, suicidality and even homicidal ideation.

David Jolly

Florida Congressman, David Jolly (R-FL 13) submitted H.R. 4640 which calls for a review of veterans suicide deaths over the last five years, studying the psychotropic drugs prescribed to veterans at the time of their death.

It is because of this mounting data that Congressman Jolly’s legislation requires a comprehensive review that would include:

  • the total number of veterans who died by suicide during the five-year period;
  • a summary that includes age, gender, and race;
  • a list of the medications prescribed to, and found in the systems of, such veterans at the time of their deaths, and a summary of medical diagnoses by VA physicians which led to the prescribing of such medications;
  • the number of instances in which these veteran was concurrently on multiple medications prescribed by VA physicians;
  • the percentage of these veterans who were not taking any medication prescribed by a VA physician;
  • the percentage of these veterans with combat experience or trauma;
  • Veterans Health Administration facilities with markedly high prescription and patient suicide rates;
  • a description of VA policies governing the prescribing of medications; and
  • recommendations to improve the safety and well-being of veterans.[12]

According to Congressman Jolly, “Data suggests that every 65 minutes a veteran takes his or her own life. This is unacceptable. One way to address the problem is to determine if any associations exist between suicide and medical treatments our veterans may be receiving for service-related conditions.”

Congressman Jolly believes “It is critical that we understand whether there is any impact of certain psychiatric drugs prescribed for issues like P.T.S.D, depression or traumatic brain injuries, on the decision of a veteran to take their own life.” CCHR couldn’t agree more and is calling on all Members of Congress to support this important, perhaps life-saving, legislation.

CCHR is a non-profit, public benefit organization.

CCHR is a non-profit, public benefit organization.

Kelly Patricia O’Meara is an award-winning former investigative reporter for the Washington Times’ Insight Magazine, penning dozens of articles exposing the fraud of psychiatric diagnosis and the dangers of the psychiatric drugs—including her ground-breaking 1999 cover story, “Guns & Doses,” exposing the link between psychiatric drugs and acts of senseless violence. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed book, Psyched Out: How Psychiatry Sells Mental Illness and Pushes Pills that Kill. Prior to working as an investigative journalist, O’Meara spent sixteen years on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer to four Members of Congress. She holds a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Maryland.


[1] Veteran Suicide Prevention Act, HR 4640, 114th Congress, 2nd Session, February 26, 2016, https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/4640/text.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Suicide Risk and Risk of Death Among Recent Veterans,” US Department of Veteran Affairs, accessed Apr 7, 2016, http://www.publichealth.va.gov/epidemiology/studies/suicide-risk-death-risk-recent-veterans.asp; Sarah Childress, “Why Soldiers Keep Losing to Suicide,” PBS FrontLine, Dec. 20, 2012, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/why-soldiers-keep-losing-to-suicide/.

[4] Moni Basu, “Why suicide rate among veterans may be more than 22 a day,” CNN, Nov. 14, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/21/us/22-veteran-suicides-a-day/; “Medicating the military — Use of psychiatric drugs has spiked; concerns surface about suicide, other dangers,” Army Times, March 29, 2013, http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/archives/2013/03/29/medicating-the-military-use-of-psychiatric-drugs-has-spiked-concerns/78534358/.

[5] John Ramsey, “The Last Battle: Steven Chadduck lost his home and nearly committed suicide while waiting for help for PTSD,” Fayottesville Observer, Sept. 24, 2012, http://www.fayobserver.com/military/article_a0699933-cac5-5ced-8616-f01eef305f16.html; Patricia Kime, “Budget plan gives VA big funding boost for veterans care,” Army Times, Apr. 10, 2013, http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130410/NEWS/304100023/Budget-plan-gives-VA-big-funding-boost-veterans-care.

[6] “War on Drugs,” The New York Times, April 6, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/07/opinion/sunday/wars-on-drugs.html.

[7] “Pharmacotherapy of PTSD in the U.D. Department of Veterans Affairs: diagnostic- and symptom-guided drug selection,” J Clin Psychiatry, Jun 2008; 69(6):959-65.

[8] “Antidepressant Use in Children, Adolescents, and Adults,” FDA, 5/2/2007, http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM096273.

[9] David Montgomery, Manny Fernandez and Timothy Williams, “Fort Hood Gunman Was Being Treated for Depression,” The New York Times, April 3, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/04/us/fort-hood-shooting.html?_r=2.

[10] Dan Stamm and Vince Lattanzio, “Montgomery County Spree Killer Bradley Stone Dies of Drug Overdose: ME,” NBC Philadelphia, Dec 24, 2014,  http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Bradley-Stone-Death-Overdose-Report-286716351.html.

[11] Lena H. Sun, “Trazodone antidepressant, used by Aaron Alexis, described as ‘very safe’” The Washington Post, Sept. 18, 2014, http://www/washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/trazodone-antidepressant-used-by-aaron-alexis-described-as-very-safe/2013/09/18/4336c044-20ae-11e3-966c-9c4293c47ebe_story.html.

[12] Op. cit., Veteran Suicide Prevention Act.