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3 years ago

Why Are Suicides Climbing in the Military? Let's Look at the Drugs Being Prescribed

Photo Credit: Martha Rosenberg

Why does the suicide rate among military personnel continue to climb--even among those who never saw combat? This week the Pentagon announced there were more suicides among active-duty members of the armed services in 2012 than combat deaths--a staggering 349. Eighty-five percent had not even seen combat, reported Bloomberg.


The  suicide rate rose similarly last year and also included troops who had not faced combat. There were 38 Army suicides in July of 2012 compared with 32 suicides in July of 2011. In a 2010 Army report called Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Report, 36 percent of the troops who killed themselves had never even deployed. The suicide rate increased by more than 150 percent in the Army and more than 50 percent in the Marine Corps between 2001 to 2009, reported  Military Times in a series of in-depth articles.


One in six service members was on a psychoactive drug in 2010 and "many troops are taking more than one kind, mixing several pills in daily 'cocktails' for example, an antidepressant with an antipsychotic to prevent nightmares, plus an anti-epileptic to reduce headaches--despite minimal clinical research testing such combinations," said  Military Times.

The pills and pill cocktails many troops are prescribed are clearly linked to suicidal thoughts and behavior. Antidepressants like Prozac and Paxil, antipsychotics like Seroquel and Zyprexa and anti-seizure drugs like Lyrica and Neurontin all carry clear suicide warnings and all are widely used in the military. Almost 5,000 newspaper reports link antidepressants to suicide, homicide and bizarre behavior on the website The malaria drug Lariam is also highly correlated with suicide and its use actually increased in the Navy and Marine Corps in 2011, according to the Associated Press.


Eighty-nine percent of troops with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are now given psychoactive drugs and between 2005 and 2009, half of all TRICARE (the military health plan) prescriptions for people between 18 and 34 were for antidepressants. During the same time period, epilepsy drugs like Topamax and Neurontin, increasingly given off-label for mental conditions, increased 56 percent, reports  Military Times. In 2008 , 578,000 epilepsy pills and 89,000 antipsychotics were prescribed to deploying troops.


Both the increase in the overall suicide rate in the US (rising to 36,000 a year after falling in the 1990s according to USA Today) and in the military coincide with the debut of direct-to-consumer drug advertising in the late 1990s. They are also correlated with the FDA's approval of many drugs with suicide links and a population that is increasingly taking psychoactive drugs for minor problems and symptoms. Several powerful military psychiatrists and administrators are also consultants to Big Pharma who shamelessly enroll veterans in drug studies and promote the pills that drug companies pay them to promote. Who can say conflict of interest?


When concerns about the rise in the general suicide rate in the US surfaced last fall, US Surgeon General Regina Benjamin announced federal grants for suicide hotlines, more mental health workers, better depression screening and Facebook tracking of suicidal messages. Nowhere, did she mention examining the role of suicide-linked drugs on, ahem, suicide. The Pentagon is apparently in similar denial.


More information about overmedication of troops and suicide-linked drugs is found in Martha Rosenberg's recently publishedBorn With a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health.

This post was modified from its original form on 04 Feb, 5:25
3 years ago

Hi Rhonda:  good to see you posting comments again.


Those drugs are problematic.  Too many new drugs have enormous Side effects which increase paranoia and cause delusional thinking.


problems are that too many times, psychiatrists are playing with hit or miss on drugs.

Look at prozac, too many were prescribed prozac and got high doses which caused a multitude of problems.


Now, they don't want teens to get prozac because of problems with brain chemistry.


these drugs permanently alter brain chemistry, dosing is very important.

Soldiers coming back from wartime experience undue stress and there care is not monitored the way it should be.  Passing out pills is not the answer.


Look at SEAL murdered in TX over weekend by a crazy ex-marine, two shot in the back.

Look at the guy's photo, another CO crazy.

3 years ago

Maybe Cannabis would be better for some of these post traumatic stress veterans mixed with a lot of therapy, lots of therapy. 


Pot cannot reduce stress and since MDs can prescribe it now, it may be better for the service people coming back with PTSD. 

Chemical pharmaceuticals are very long lasting and they build up in the brain.

3 years ago

What they do with these drugs are give a cocktail and that is bad.

I would rather opt for cannabis prescribed by a psychiatrist over the junk the pharmaceuticals push.

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