For the first time in history, a growing number of combat troops are taking daily doses of anti-depressants to calm nerves strained by repeated and lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the Army’s fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report, using an anonymous survey of U.S. troops taken last fall, 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.

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Use is split 50 – 50 between anti-depressants such as Zoloft and Prozac and sleep aids such as Ambien. Military physicians are also split on the effects of using such prescriptions on soldiers in war zones. Some physicians are concerned that they are not adequately understood, while others contend that using prescriptions for mild depression symptoms avoids costly removals of soldiers from the fight.

Now there’s a thought – removal of soldiers from the fight. Apparently that isn’t something a number of military physicians are willing to acknowledge – got to fight that war even at the expense of increasing emotional and psychological problems among the military.


About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
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  1. It doesnt always help to remove them from the fight. Silence of being home can be 100x worse than in battle.
    Children are on meds, should we pull them out of school?
    Millions of “normal” Americans are on happy pills- should we pull them out of work?

    I know your last sentence is in jest but it is 100% correct.

  2. Clint:

    The process has changed when they are brought home. The veterans now have to spend an initial time period in counseling, so it isn’t the silence of coming home like it was in the past and the abandonment that many veterans felt. In addition, the VA and the states are providing a greater variety of support services than in the past.

    A couple of weeks ago, I arranged to have speakers from our local VA Hospital talk to my women’s group – Organization of Concerned Women. No slams, please. The speakers addressed the issues of traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress syndrome. We had about 20 or 22 people attend – those we had invited who we thought might be interested in the topics.

    At the end of the program, a veteran and his wife were leaving. He turned around and thanked the two speakers and said that he was so grateful that these expanded services and support were available to our returning veterans of today’s conflicts. He said he wished these things had been available when he returned.

    The dynamics of helping our returning veterans have changed. It is no longer a disgrace and “unmanly” to acknowledge emotional or mental stress. Thus, these facets of serving returning veterans are out in the light instead of hidden in shame. Can we help everyone? No. But at least the services are now available to help through what was in the past the “silence of home.”

    I know many millions of Americans are on antidepressants from school children to adults. It is increasing number because we tend to think that a pill solves every problem. But, overall, the most recent tracking studies show about a 10% use by women and 6% in children and young adults. Those figures are lower than the figures released by the Army’s studies.

    The Afghan number is 17% – that is approaching a fifth of the veterans in the Afghan conflict. Both figures show higher usage than in the general population.

  3. mark says:

    Actually the figures aren’t higher than overall use in the US. According to your article, 12% (Iraq) and 17% (afghanistan) use EITHER an anti-depressant or a sleep aid, and the split between the two is “50-50.” If your article is correct, anti-depressant use would be 6% and 8.5%, well within US population “norms” and surprisinngly low for “combat troops” spending long periods of time away from family in objectively depressing places. I also don’t know whether the report distinguishes use of welbutrin (an anti-depressant) for nicotine abuse. The military encourages tobacco cessation and hands the stuff out like candy for that purpose.

    At the time of the democrat convention I heard a retired military officer, providing commentary, say “The democrats talk about the troops a lot, but almost always in a context where we are referred to as either children or victims.”

  4. Mark:

    If your response is correct, then why is the Army putting out a report which indicates “for the first time in history?” That phrase was used for a reason – perhaps in the past veterans have been less likely than the general population to self-medicate and the increase in today’s combat raises a red flag.

    By the way, the article refers to the Army’s report – not mine.

  5. Mark:

    Here are some additional findings of the report:

    Major findings include:

    1)The percentage of soldiers screening positive for mental-health problems is similar to previous years, and similar in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unit morale was higher in Iraq in 2007 than in 2006.
    2)Combat exposure is down in Iraq, but up in Afghanistan, so that it is now similar in both theaters.
    3)Soldiers on their third or fourth deployment have significantly lower morale, more mental-health problems and more stress-related work problems.
    4)Suicide rates remain elevated in both theaters and are above normal Army rates.
    5)Soldiers who received Battlemind training before deployment reported fewer mental-health problems.
    6)There are barriers preventing soldiers from obtaining mental-health care they need. In Iraq, many soldiers were moved last year to small outposts where they could maintain close contact with Iraqi civilians and security forces. This placed them farther from care providers at large bases. In Afghanistan, dispersal of troops over a large area made access difficult. Commanders in Afghanistan have responded to the report’s recommendations by moving providers closer to troops.
    7)Reports of unethical behavior by U.S. troops were largely unchanged from 2006.

  6. mark says:

    My use of “your” meant the report you cited, not some report that I thought you authored.

    I don’t know what the report intended by “for the first time in history”. The survey was done last fall. Perhaps it was referring to year over year, which would be disturbing. I doubt it, as not much has changed year over year on the ground.

    If the report is taking a longer historical view, the most recent half-way comparable conflict would be Vietnam. Most of the drugs the report cited weren’t around then.

    For better or worse, use of anti-depressants and sleep aids has grown exonentially across the US poulation, as has the societal acceptance of the use of such drugs. I’m pretty sure that 25 years ago use of an anti-depressant would have disqualified a soldier from combat and severely limited career options. The stigma against such medications stood longer and stronger with the military and with men, generally, who still make up a majority of “combat troops.” Alcohol was the preferred form of self-medication, with less than perfect results.

    If medication permits a tial lawyer to cope with mild depression, we celebrate a legal career saved. When the same allows a combat soldier to continue his chosen line of work, you are apalled.

  7. mark says:

    I posted before I read your additional findings post. It is not surprising to me that combat is stressful and inflicts injuries, physical and mental. It is also not surprising that prolonged exposure to combat is more stressful and has a higher risk of injury. Has it ever been otherwise? A warriors life…

    So that we can close on an area of agreement, I fully support your efforts with the VA hospitals and I think these guys (and women) deserve the best of care, during and after their service.

  8. Mark:

    I realize that military personnel enlist knowing that part of their career may be spent in combat. But what I truly have a hard time understanding is putting our soldiers through 3 and 4 tours. To me, and just my opinion, this is inhumane. Even the Vietnam tours were only 13 months’ long. Of course, we had the draft which provided a larger pool of personnel.

    I am in agreement that we need to do all we can when we bring our veterans home. This month, I believe it is October 24th, the Wayne Township Trustee’s Office hosts a Veterans’ Stand down and Healthy Cities fair. After I work there, I always come home and count my blessings.

  9. Its not inhumane when they volenteer. I suppose it does help a soldiers outlook on life when they come home to ticker tape parades as in ww1,wwII, Desert storm, Iraqi Feedom. There is just that one war where the hippies got it wrong and spit on them.

    Thanks for helping them now

  10. Clint:

    Whether we have a volunteer or drafted military, three and four tours is inhumane. Many of these “volunteers” are National Guard. Their role is to protect our shores not be shipped off to foreign soil to fight wars for which their training does not prepare them.

    While I understand the Constitution gives the power to the President to call up troops, that authority has been abused in the rush to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    The Guard functions with part-time volunteers. I believe they attend one weekend a month in training and a two-week session in the summer each year. They are not meant to function as a full-time military. The government will spend $128 million this year just to hire new trainers.

  11. Clint:

    I’m sorry – could you explain your last comment? Again, not understanding or being around when history is made can be a real problem for younger generations.

    Hippies were a small part of the anti-war movement. Starting with teach-ins during the spring of 1965, the massive antiwar efforts centered on the colleges, with the students playing leading roles.

    By 1968, protesters numbered almost seven million with more than half being white youths in college. Again, continuing to blame the hippies for the entire anti-war movement is similar to blaming my ’60s generation for all the evils of the world.

  12. Again with the race thing, gees. Hippies is a loose term now for liberals. I believe words need to be evolving and living so we can use them as we see fit.

  13. Clint:

    The “race thing” that you keep reading into everything is simply facts from a website that discussed the anti-war movement. If you don’t like the truth, then I don’t know what to tell you.

    So you have decided to create a new meaning for hippies? I don’t know too many people who equate hippies with liberals – even hard-core right-wing Republicans. They are two separate entities and ideologies.

    I would imagine you could find people from my small home town who fell into the classic hippie category who are now supporters of corporate America.

  14. So you are saying hippies can change. I thought they were born hippies? Is there some kind of intervention or association to help. Or do they just realize that corporate America isnt evil and they put down their bong. Or do they put down their bong–then realize corp. America isnt evil? Where do I send my money for the “help the hippies fund”. This hippie thing is way more complex than I thought!

  15. Clint:

    Actually, you are making it way too complex. Read about the hippie movement, and you will realize that people in today’s age fall into that category – we just don’t call them hippies any more.

    Here is a description from Wikipedia:

    “The word hippie derives from hipster, and was initially used to describe beatniks who had moved into San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. These people inherited the counter cultural values of the Beat Generation, created their own communities, listened to psychedelic rock, embraced the sexual revolution, and used drugs such as cannabis and LSD to explore alternative states of consciousness.”

    Any individual can change – I am not sure why that should be a surprise to you. As to your statements about corporate America, I am sure some of the “hippies” assimilated into the corporate world. I would also guarantee that many of them still hold the same view of corporate America that they did in the ’60s – they just have abandoned the risky behavior that is harmful to them.

  16. Man, liberals have no sence of humor!

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