Doping Our Troops For
Combat – Could We Be So Evil?
By James Donahue
It is called the Psychological
Kevlar Act of 2007, and it is legislation designed by perhaps some well-meaning lawmakers to head-off the rising level of
suicides and mental illness among combat troops engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That may sound somewhat
humane when we consider the fact that our military forces, engaged in one of the longest wars in American history and forced
to remain on the front line for longer periods for lack of back-up forces, are experiencing serious mental health problems.
The Department of Defense
Task Force on Mental Health notes that nearly 40 percent of soldiers, a third of Marines and half of the National Guard members
are suffering from severe mental health issues, often after returning home from the war. Also the year 2006 saw the highest
rate of military suicides in 26 years.
Obviously something must
be done to salvage our armed forces. But instead of shutting down those ugly wars, that were never necessary, and bringing
our troops home, the Bush Administration is plunging ahead with continued fighting, and even rattling sabers and threatening
to expand the war into Iran.
So we have the Psychological
Kevlar Act, legislation that “directs the secretary of defense to develop and implement a plan to incorporate preventive
and early-intervention measures, practices or procedures that reduce the likelihood that personnel in combat will develop
post-traumatic stress disorder or other stress-related psychopathologies, including substance use conditions.”
Hidden between the lines
is the plan to give soldiers the drug propranalol to treat the symptoms of posttraumatic stress.
That is one of the most
dangerous ideas we have ever heard. Propranolol, also known as Inderal, is a beta-blocker used to treat high blood pressure.
It has a relaxing effect on the body, as well as the blood vessels, so the heart doesn’t have to pump as hard. It also
can make the subject drowsy and impair clear thinking. So why give such a drug to soldiers involved in fighting a war?
The other problem with
feeding propranolol to soldiers is that the body becomes dependent on it, thus it cannot be stopped suddenly without the risk
of a heart attack or other medical problems. It cannot be mixed with alcohol or many other medications. And for women in the
military, the drug can be passed on through breast milk, and can have an affect on unborn children.
Propranolol appears to
be the military’s choice in medication designed to numb the human mind and perhaps protect the soldier from the mental
damage caused by front-line combat and the act of killing fellow human beings and seeing friends blown up or maimed before
their eyes. But will such a drug change these men and women, leaving them so indifference to violence they become dangerous
to society once their part in the war is over?
Those who argue in favor
of this drug’s use do so on the grounds that it medicates the mind. It is like the “morning-after pill”
that eases away regret, remorse, pain and guilt.
Opponents like Barry
Romo, for Vietnam Veterans Against the War, calls it the “devil pill.” He says it is an “anti-morality pill”
that makes people “do anything and think they can get away with it.”