U. S. Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland is wide awake.
This March he called for a government funded investigation into the possible links between the escalating use of anti-depressants by our troops and the growing rates of suicide by the men and women in uniform.
Per Department of Defense statistics from 2005 to 2008, there has been a whopping four hundred percent increase in prescriptions for anti-depressants and other drugs used by U. S. troops to combat anxiety. Senator Cardin called those numbers “disturbing.”
In January of this year, sixteen U. S. troops were killed by enemy fire in Iraq and Afghanistan, but twenty-four American soldiers committed suicide that same month. In fact, from 2001 to 2009 eleven hundred service members have committed suicide. That’s more than the total number killed in Afghanistan during that same time period.
Cardin wants to know the connection between the increase in military prescriptions for anti-depressants and the coincident increase of suicide among our troops. There were fifteen percent more suicides, for instance, in 2009 than in 2008.
Amazingly enough, thirty-six percent of reported military suicides were by troops who never have been deployed.
Even more amazing – or maybe not, to those of us who are already highly caffeinated by such facts – forty percent of Army suicides in 2006 and 2007 took psychiatric drugs: in particular, the newer class of anti-depressants, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’S), like Prozac and Zoloft.
“The high percentage of U. S. soldiers attempting suicide after taking SSRI’s should raise serious concerns,” said Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, who teaches psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
That’s why the FDA requires black box labels on these drugs warning of “elevated risk of suicidal thought and behavior while using these medications.”
Ben Cardin has called the current number of military suicides “unprecedented” in his request for Congress to authorize a scientific study of the possible links between these military suicides and a range of anti-depressants, sleeping pills and other narcotics now prescribed to troops.
Let’s hope they do.
In fact, tell your Congressmen to wake up with Ben and get this study moving.