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Friday, November 17, 2006

Times Argus: Some Troops Self-Medicating in Field

From Cox News via the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus:

Experts say the PTSD rate among Iraq veterans could well eclipse the 30 percent lifetime rate found in a 1990 national study of Vietnam veterans because soldiers still on active duty are being deployed longer and more often to Iraq and more doctors are aware of the disorder and will properly diagnose it.

But a study released in May by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found that nearly four in five service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who may have been at risk for PTSD were not referred for further mental health evaluation. The Pentagon was unable to explain to the GAO why some were not referred for care.

Medical experts say mental health and substance abuse problems are intertwined. And drugs ranging from marijuana to prescription anti-depressants are easily accessible in Iraq, according to interviews with more than a dozen soldiers who served there.

Soldiers said they used banned substances as a way to mentally escape the violence around them. Others said pills were handed out by medics in the field. John Crawford, a 28-year-old former Florida National Guardsman with the Army's 101st Airborne Division, said soldiers in his unit drank alcohol, some took steroids, 'pretty much everyone took Valium' and 'some did all three.'

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