Friday, June 20, 2008

Antidepressant Use Soars Among Deployed

For the first time in history, a sizable and growing number of U.S. combat troops are taking daily doses of antidepressants to calm nerves strained by repeated and lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a report in Time Magazine.

In its June 16 cover story, the magazine reports that the medicines are intended not only to help troops keep their cool but also to enable the already strapped Army to preserve its most precious resource: soldiers on the front lines.

Citing the Army's fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report, using an anonymous survey of U.S. troops taken last fall, Time wrote that about 12 percent of combat troops in Iraq and 17 percent of those in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them cope.

Escalating violence in Afghanistan and the more isolated mission have driven troops to rely more on medication there than in Iraq, military officials told Time.

The Army estimates that authorized drug use splits roughly fifty-fifty between troops taking antidepressants -- largely the class of drugs that includes Prozac and Zoloft -- and those taking prescription sleeping pills such as Ambien, Time wrote.

The magazine noted that the high number of soldiers on antidepressants is mirrored by that of the general population.

Time also reported that there are sharp divisions among military physicians: Some have said that the effects of using such prescriptions on soldiers in war zones are not adequately understood, while others contend that using prescriptions for mild depression symptoms avoids costly removals of soldiers from the fight.

Stars and Stripes | June 12, 2008


Anonymous said...

An important issue, but not so different from scrip drug use in the general population. In our immediate families, it seems like more than half the folks are taking some kind of meds--either anti-depressants or anti-ADD, or both, plus sleeping pills and whatever else they see advertised on TV.

This messing with chemicals is a poor substitute for really dealing with psychological issues and only helps our corporate consumerist society keep its hold on the balls of the nation.

HopeSpringsATurtle said...

No kidding Anon, I totally agree. The military, with certain caveats aside, is a microcosm of the greater society from which it comes. Americans as a whole are far too dependent on the 'quick fix' rather than the tough and committed work it takes to heal broken spirits. Drugs do play a role in healing but the article points out the soaring use of antidepressants by our deployed personnel simply to cope in an untenable, unnecessary situation -- an illegal occupation in Iraq and an ignored war in Afghanistan. Thank you for your comments.

Cujo359 said...

I read this article, and thought it was a good one. It certainly didn't leave out any obvious points.

Even if the war in Iraq were justified, I'd be concerned about the use of antidepressants to keep soldiers on duty. If they're becoming depressed because of their jobs, is throwing them back into those jobs wise?

All I can really do is ask that question. I'm neither a soldier nor a mental health professional. But somehow I think we're asking for more trouble down the line by doing this.

op99 said...

Personally, I would go stark raving mad at just the prospect of endless war zone deployments for ridiculous durations with ridiculously short periods between deployments. How could anyone live like that?

HopeSpringsATurtle said...

No one really can Op -- not without serious consequences down the road. We have begun to see the effects of "endless war zone deployments for ridiculous durations with ridiculously short periods between deployments." 500% RISE IN SUICIDES.

I'm afraid the worst is yet to come.

Cujo, the-people-on-antideprresants- probably-shouldn't-have-guns gets filed under the No Shit Sherlock. The rules we impose on 'civil society' no longer apply in a "war" situation. The civilian and military leadership have been everything but leaders. I've been saying literally for years, our military is broken.

Cujo359 said...

I'm going to guess that yes, giving people guns when they're on mood-altering drugs is a bad idea. What I was referring to was the long-term health of the soldiers themselves. It strikes me that if these drugs are masking a problem, then it might be that much worse later.

Anonymous said...

It has almost been proved that women are much more vulnerable to depression as compared to men. To put it in figures one in five women is hit by depression which is double the figure in men. Though the real and exact reason behind this sort of uncanny phenomenon still eludes human intelligence, there are an ample lot of depression medications that have successfully thumped depression, as for example the antidepressants like xanax valium .

HopeSpringsATurtle said...

'Dr.' Morley,

As you must know (being a doctor) valium and xanez are Benzos, a class of drugs used for treatment of conditions from anxiety to muscle spasms; they are not antidepressants and can actually cause or increase depressive episodes and are highly addictive.

Women do suffer from depression at a higher rate than men, but the reasons for the increased diagnoses are not clear. It is posited that the social stigma associated with depression oftentimes prevents men from admitting to depression.

Your comment does not address the actual topic of the post; the dramatically increased use of antidepressants in deployed servicemembers (regardless of stigma, especially in military where depression is falsely associated to weakness).

The difficulty of deployment in a war zone and the increased anxiety associated with it is a given, but this proliferation of drugs to allow people to survive forebodes far more serious, deeper problems that are not being addressed.