The mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights announces the third in a four-part series by award-winning investigative journalist Kelly Patricia O’Meara exploring the epidemic of suicides and sudden deaths in the military and the skyrocketing use of psychiatric drugs being prescribed to soldiers and vets. The third installment looks at the historical data behind the psychiatric-military alliance and the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industry’s increasing power and influence within the military today.
Military death records obtained by Military Times show that at least 68 accidental drug deaths in 2009, up from 24 in 2001. In total, at least 430 troops have died from drug use — or, in a small number of cases, alcohol use — in the past decade.
The widespread use of antidepressants by soldiers could be contributing to the Army’s escalating suicide rate (“Leaders criticized in Army suicides,” News, Friday). Antidepressants can increase the risk of suicide or suicidal behavior in certain population groups.
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.
Prescription drug cocktails have lead to at least 32 accidental overdoses among Marines and soldiers since 2007, bringing military medical practices for treating physical and psychiatric problems under scrutiny. Most of the troops had been prescribed “drug cocktails,” combinations of drugs including painkillers, sleeping pills, antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, interviews and records show. In all cases, suicide was ruled out.