‘Bottles of Medication to Fortify Them’

A nice even-handed report on the rising use of prescriptions drugs in the military by Melody Petersen in Men’s Health magazine.

The title of the story is U.S. military: Heavily armed and medicated. The title is a flashy one, to be sure. The story leads off with a Marine who woke up 200 meters from his sleeping quarters and unaware of how he got there.

[Corporal Michael Cataldi’s] ordeal was not all that remarkable for a person on that anti-anxiety medication. In the lengthy labeling that accompanies each prescription, Klonopin users are warned against abruptly stopping the medicine, since doing so can cause psychosis, hallucinations, and other symptoms. What makes Cataldi’s story extraordinary is that he was a U. S. Marine at war, and that the drug’s adverse effects endangered lives — his own, his fellow Marines’, and the lives of any civilians unfortunate enough to cross his path.

Now, I certainly don’t want to minimize the issue. It’s clear that our troops have been under a lot of stress for extended periods of time and that problems are not unheard of. But the story notes that 12% and 15% of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (respectively) reported “taking antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or sleeping pills” and I’m not sure if this number is unexpectedly large or not.

The Marine that led off the story is a mechanic. Not to look down on mechanics, but I’m sure that if the writer had found a sensational story about a machine gunner or pilot wigging out, she would have used that instead. Apparently, nothing exciting enough turned up.

There there’s this:

Colonel Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, M. D., M. P. H., a psychiatrist and the medical director of the strategic communication directorate in the Office of the Army Surgeon General, acknowledges that writing more prescriptions for frontline troops was a change in direction for the Pentagon. “Twenty years ago,” she says, “we weren’t deploying soldiers on medications.”

Really? Soldiers on medications weren’t deployed to Panama? I’ll bet at least a couple were.


  1. Then there’d be the NCO in my area that bugged out a capped off 5 people (including a fellow patient) at Camp BLANK’s stress clinic a week or so ago. Pretty sad……….

    Too many lengthy deployments for too troops (thanks Clinton!), not enough R&R; 30 days might be fine for troops who’re stateside, or in some rough post like Japan or Europe, but it should be a minimum of 45-60 days/year for those in war zones, and then there’s the totally bone headed General Order #1 and it’s zero defect proscription of booze.

    Yes…..too mcuh drinking leads to far too many unwanted problems, but I still believe banning it completely was a bone head move. If you’ve got bad actors………deal with them. Don’t make the whole class stay after school.

  2. I saw a very good recruit discharged from Boot Camp for sleep walking. Maybe the USMC knows something the Army doesn’t.

    The Army should take Basic Training a more seriously, separate the genders, and stress them. They could teach them to deal with fear, fatigue, etc… and weed out the ones who really can’t deal.

    The freshly trained Armor and Infantry MOS soldiers I met in the Army seemed well trained. The ones who went through co-ed training (motor-t, communications, cooks), were absolutely unprepared for combat. They whined like bitches when we went to the field.

  3. At the very least, antimalarial medications would have been used in Panama. I remember being told that, before resistance rose, coming down with malaria got British soldiers put on a charge as it was evidence that they hadn’t been taking their pills.

  4. Holy crap. I had a friend who was addicted to morphine (and maybe heroin) in the 90s and they gave her klonopin to help her get off of the stuff. Why the hell are they giving that stuff to our men in the field? THIS IS NOT A GOOD DRUG. I’m embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t tell that she was on drugs until they gave her klonopin. She became goofy, woozy, and always had to sit down. A few times she simply passed out while standing. Sadly, she later died (not because of klonopin, but it certainly didn’t help anything).

    The REAL story here should be, ‘Why are we giving horrid drugs to our troops?’

  5. Oops. I’ve been informed that it wasn’t klonopin, but something like quanadine or clonodine. My bad. Apologies for disparaging klonopin.

  6. Anyone that crossed my path was not in danger. Fuck your article. Do better research. My Medical Officer never gave me my refills after I stressed to him about it for several months prior to running out. He left and went stateside without telling anyone about the fact he never brought my medications to Iraq. And not to mention my command knew the whole time as well. I told them what happens when it is stopped suddenly. THEY DIDN’T CARE

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