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Are Soldiers Suicides Caused by Prescription Drugs?

By       Message Martha Rosenberg     Permalink
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The suicide rate among troops is astonishing.

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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, says the Army's suicide report, released in July.

Not only are more troops dying from their own hand than combat says the Army report, titled Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, Suicide Prevention, 36 percent of the suicides were troops who were never deployed.

Also astonishing is the 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 which the FDA warned last year double suicidal thinking in patients.

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

Troops may also be taking Chantix, an antismoking drug so linked to violence and self-harm Secretary of the VA, James Peake was forced to defend its use before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs in 2008 even in drug trials . "If you know the drug induces suicidal thoughts," an unappeased Committee chair Bob Filner D-Ca. asked Rep. Filner," Why don't you just stop?"

Even widely prescribed asthma drugs like Singulair and Advair are linked to suicide says the FDA and have been cited in young people's deaths.

And who knows what happens when the drugs are mixed with mood stabilizers, insomnia and pain pills and antianxiety and antipsychotic pills, combinations which have never been tested for safety?

Links between suicide and even murder-suicide and SSRI and SNRI antidepressants have been long recognized.

Traci Johnson, a healthy 19-year-old with no mental problems, hung herself during Lilly trials of Cymbalta in the drugmaker's own clinic in 2004. Columbine shooter Eric Harris had reportedly just switched from Zoloft to Luvox. Red Lake shooter Jeff Weise who killed 10 on a Minnesota Indian reservation in 2005 had just upped his Prozac. And the Virginia Tech shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, was also on psychoactive medications say news reports.

Yet even though Amercians have doubled their antidepressants since 1999 so that 10 percent of the population or 27 million now take them suicides have climbed by five percent since 1999 and 16 percent in middle aged adults says an article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2008.

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In fact, the high percentage of civilian suicides on psychoactive drugs is probably the clearest indication that military life is not the only cause of the shocking troop suicides: In September alone, there were 18 civilian suicides, 11 murders, 2 murder suicides and other violence linked to people who were using or had used antidepressants, according to published reports.

A 54-year-old respiratory patient with a breathing tube and an oxygen tank and no previous criminal record held up a bank in Mobile. She had gone off her antidepressants.

An enraged man in Australia, also off his antidepressants, chased his mailman and threatened to cut his throat...for bringing him junk mail.

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)

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