Doping Up the Troops
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
U.S. Central Command policy allows troops a 90- or 180-day supply of highly addictive psychotropic drugs before they deploy to combat, reports Nextgov.
The CENTCOM approved drug list is a mixture that includes drugs like Valium and Xanax, used to treat depression, as well as the antipsychotic Seroquel, originally developed to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, mania and depression.
CENTCOM policy does not permit the use of Seroquel to treat deploying troops with these conditions, but it does allow its use as a sleep aid, and allows deployed troops to be provided with a 180-day supply.
In an e-mailed statement to Nextgov, Col. John Stasinos, chief of addiction medicine for the Army surgeon general, and Col. Carol Labadie, pharmacy program manager in the Directorate of Health Policy and Services for the surgeon general, said soldiers are supplied with up to 180 days of medications because they "serve in remote areas without easy access to pharmacies. It is important that soldiers on chronic medications do not run out of them during combat operations, because not taking the medications can be as dangerous as taking too much medication."
A June 2010 internal report from the Defense Department's Pharmacoeconomic Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio showed that 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.
Dr. Grace Jackson, a former Navy psychiatrist, told Nextgov she resigned her commission in 2002 "out of conscience, because I did not want to be a pill pusher." She believes psychotropic drugs have so many inherent dangers that "the CENTCOM CNS formulary is destroying the force," she said.
Dr. Greg Smith, who runs the Los Angles-based Comprehensive Pain Relief Group, said he was shocked by CENTCOM's drug policy for deployed troops. "If I was a commander I'd worry about what these troops would do," as a result of their medications, Smith said.
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