Warehouse C
Drugged Indifference
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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.”