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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Malingering Rare, Popular Prescriptions “Can Cause Harm” Says Army’s Top Medical Officer in New PTSD Guidance

Army’s New PTSD Guidelines Fault Madigan’s Screening Tests

The Army Surgeon General’s new guidance for diagnosing PTSD is critical of an approach once routine at Madigan Army Medical Center.

by Hal Bernton
Seattle Times April 21, 2012

The Army Surgeon General’s Office has issued new guidelines for diagnosing PTSD that criticize an approach once routinely used at Madigan Army Medical Center.

The policy, obtained by The Seattle Times, specifically discounts tests used to determine whether soldiers are faking symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. It says that poor test results do not constitute malingering.

The written tests often were part of the Madigan screening process that overturned the PTSD diagnoses of more than 300 patients during the past five years.

Madigan medical-team members cited studies that said fabricated PTSD symptoms were a significant — and often undetected — phenomenon. They offered the tests as an objective way to help identity “PTSD simulators” among the patients under consideration for a medical retirement that offers a pension and other benefits.

The team’s approach once was called a “best practice” by Madigan leaders, including Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, a former commander who now serves as the Army’s surgeon general. But earlier this year, amid patient protests about overturned diagnoses, the team was shut down as the Army launched several investigations.

ABOUT FACE: Patricia Horoho, Army officer promoted in 2011 to 3-star general and appointed by president Obama as first female Army Surgeon General, was the former commander at Madigan Army Medical Center from 2008-2010. Horoho previously praised her subordinate doctors' practice of reversing PTSD diagnoses at Madigan as "best practice."


Though none of the Army findings have been publicly released, the April 10 “policy guidance” from the surgeon general charts new directions for PTSD screening at Madigan and elsewhere in the Army medical system.

PTSD is a condition that results from experiencing a traumatic event, such as a battlefield casualty. Symptoms can include recurrent nightmares, flashbacks, irritability and feeling distant from other people.

Some people recover from PTSD. For others, it may be a lifelong struggle.

The new policy downplays the frequency of soldiers faking symptoms to gain benefits, citing studies indicating it is rare. It also rejects the view a patient’s response to the hundreds of written test questions can determine if a soldier is faking symptoms for financial gain, and it declares that a poor test result “does not equate to malingering, which requires proof of intent… ”

Read the rest of this story:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2018041659_ptsd22m.html