Are We Giving Our Soldiers Drugs That Make Them Kill Themselves?

More soldiers than ever are on drugs that have been linked to suicide and violent behavior.

Martha Rosenberg
Alternet

In 2009 there were 160 active duty suicides, 239 suicides within the total Army including the Reserves, 146 active duty deaths from drug overdoses and high risk behavior and 1,713 suicide attempts. In addition to suicide, other out-of-character behavior like domestic violence is known to erupt from the drugs.

More troops are dying by their own hand than in combat, according to an Army report titled “Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, Suicide Prevention.” Not only that, but 36 percent of the suicides were troops who were never deployed.

The unprecedented suicide rates are accompanied by an unprecedented rise in psychoactive drug rate among active duty-aged troops, 18 to 34, which is up 85 percent since 2003, according to the military health plan Tricare. Since 2001, 73,103 prescriptions for Zoloft have been dispensed, 38,199 for Prozac, 17,830 for Paxil and 12,047 for Cymbalta says Tricare 2009 data, which includes family prescriptions. All of the drugs carry a suicide warning label.

In addition to the leap in SSRI antidepressants, prescriptions for the anticonvulsants Topamax and Neurontin rose 56 percent in the same group since 2005, says Navy Times — drugs the FDA warned last year double suicidal thinking in patients.

In fact, 4,994 troops at Fort Bragg are on antidepressants right now, says the Fayetteville Observer. Six-hundred-sixty-four are on an antipsychotics and “many soldiers take more than one type of medication.”

Of course, depression itself is a risk factor for suicide, so it is not always possible to tell if the disease or the drug is at fault.

But many believe the dramatic and tandem rises in suicide rates and psychoactive drug rates are correlated. “Intuitively, it just tells you that there’s a connection,”

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