Medicinal abuse by enlisted men leading to violent confrontations
Overworked military men on stimulants lead to outbursts
Overworked military men who resort to stimulants such as Dexedrine to finish out their shifts have led to disastrous consequences. In one notable incident, U.S. Air Force pilot Patrick Burke's day took a tablet of Dexedrine every four hours during a 19-hour flight. Upon landing, Burke was driving back to Ellsworth Air Force Base when he began striking his friend in the head.
There are a small but growing number of such cases across the nation. Lawyers are blaming the U.S. military's heavy use of psychotropic drugs for their clients' aberrant behavior and related health problems.
Military psychiatrists said that Burke suffered from "polysubstance-induced delirium" brought on by alcohol, lack of sleep and the 40 milligrams of Dexedrine he was issued by the Air Force.
There are a small but growing number of such cases across the nation. Lawyers are blaming the U.S. military's heavy use of psychotropic drugs for their clients' aberrant behavior and related health problems. Burke's case provides the first important indication that military psychiatrists and court-martial judges are not blind to what can happen when troops go to work medicated.
The United States military has participated in two long-running wars with escalating levels of combat stress, with more than 110,000 active-duty Army troops last year were taking prescribed antidepressants, narcotics, sedatives, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs. According to figures recently disclosed by a U.S. Army surgeon general, nearly 8 percent of the active-duty Army is now on sedatives and more than 6 percent is on antidepressants - an eightfold increase since 2005.
"We have never medicated our troops to the extent we are doing now.... And I don't believe the current increase in suicides and homicides in the military are a coincidence," Bart Billings, a former military psychologist who hosts an annual conference on combat stress says.
The pharmacy consultant for the Army surgeon general says the military's use of the drugs is comparable to that in the civilian world. "It's not that we're using them more frequently or any differently," Col. Carol Labadie says. "As with any medication, you have to look at weighing the risk versus the benefits of somebody going on a medication."
But the military environment makes regulating the use of prescription drugs a challenge compared with the civilian world, as follow-up appointments in the battlefield are often few and far between. Soldiers are sent out on deployment typically with 180 days' worth of medications, allowing them to trade with friends or grab an entire fistful of pills at the end of an anxious day. And soldiers with injuries can easily become dependent on narcotic painkillers.
"The big difference is these are people who have access to loaded weapons, or have responsibility for protecting other individuals who are in harm's way," Grace Jackson, a former Navy staff psychiatrist who resigned her commission says. Her resignation was in part due to concerns that military psychiatrists even then were handing out too many pills.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Keywords: U.S. troops, . drug abuse, violent confrontations, psychiatry
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