More Than 300 Soldier Deaths Due to Drug Toxicity Since 2006, Many Linked to PTSD Medications Army Reports

Army Warns Doctors Against Using Certain Drugs in PTSD Treatment

by Bob Brewin
NextGov, April 25, 2012

This is the 16th story in an ongoing series.

The Army Surgeon General’s office is backing away from its long-standing endorsement of prescribing troops multiple highly addictive psychotropic drugs for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and early this month warned regional medical commanders against using tranquilizers such as Xanax and Valium to treat PTSD.

PFC Timothy R. Alderman, Fort Carson soldier did 250 combat missions and had 16 confirmed kills during 2006 tour in Ramadi, Iraq. He also pulled the body of his platoon sergeant from the aftermath of an IED blast. Alderman died Oct. 20, 2008 from overdose after Army doctors prescribed him a dangerous cocktail of drugs for PTSD symptoms.


An April 10 policy memo that the Army Medical Command released regarding the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD said a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which include Xanax and Valium, could intensify rather than reduce combat stress symptoms and lead to addiction.

The memo, signed by Herbert Coley, civilian chief of staff of the Army Medical Command, also cautioned service clinicians against prescribing second-generation antipsychotic drugs, such as Seroquel and Risperidone, to combat PTSD.

The drugs originally were developed to treat severe mental conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The memo questioned the efficacy of this drug class in PTSD treatment and cautioned against their use due to potential long-term health effects, which include heart disorders, muscle spasms and weight gain.

Throughout more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the military services have relied heavily on prescription drugs to help troops deal with their mental health problems during and after deployment. In a June 2010 report, the Defense Department’s Pharmacoeconomic Center said 213,972, or 20 percent of the 1.1 million active-duty troops surveyed, were taking some form of psychotropic drug — antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedative hypnotics or other controlled substances.

The Army, in a July 2010 report on suicide prevention, said one-third of all active-duty military suicides involved prescription drugs.

Read the rest of this story:

http://www.nextgov.com/nextgov/ng_20120425_6330.php?oref=topstory

Read more stories from this series on mental health problems facing Afghanistan and Iraq veterans:

http://www.nextgov.com/defense/broken-warriors/55403/

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