Veteran Columnist Calls on Army Leaders to Tell Full Story on Soldier Suicides: “Reveal the Cause”

Daniel Pilgrim, 12, looks at empty hydrocodone and oxycodone medicine bottles that belonged to his father, Lance Pilgrim, who got addicted to the opioids, shuttling in and out of treatment after discharge from the Army. Despite a history of drug abuse, Lance was prescribed the hydrocodone days before he overdosed. (Jay Janner / American Statesman)

Texas Paper Chronicles Veterans’ Drug Overdose Deaths

by Bob Brewin, Sept. 3, 2012

During a six-month investigation, the Austin American-Statesman dug out the records — autopsy reports, inquests, toxicology and accident reports — on the deaths of 266 Texas Afghanistan and Iraq veterans.

The records revealed “an alarmingly high percentage died from prescription drug overdoses, toxic drug combinations, suicide and single-vehicle crashes — a largely unseen pattern of early deaths that federal authorities are failing to adequately track and have been slow to respond to.”

I’ve reported on the misuse of prescription drugs by the Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments in our Broken Warrior series since January 2011 and the American-Statesman investigation shows the deadly result of this over reliance on pills: More than one on three Texas vets died from a drug overdose, a fatal combination of drugs or a drug related suicide.

Maybe it’s time for the Army to stop releasing raw statistics on suicides and start to reveal the cause. I bet drugs play a huge role.

This article is reporting at its best — the kind of grunt work that will never be replaced by a Twitter feed, a blog post or a Facebook page.

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2 Responses

  1. Absolutely, beware of the label & pill merchants….these drugs are dangerous with little, if any, evidence based practice, validity and reliability. Early reports show that the ave. length of time for a psychiatric visit is 10-12 minutes. How well can a doc. get to know their patients and their life, health and relationships to prescribe anything?

    • The Health Care system in general wants to label and place our veterans with Post Traumatic Stress symptoms on medication. We seem to have the overall illusion that numbing them out, getting them a job and housing is going to solve all their problems. REALLY! It’s 2012 and we are still not educated about PTSD and the alternative holistic approaches that get to the roots of the problem and actually help people get their life force back. If we were a country that was more invested in healing than making a profit we might see some dramatic changes!

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