“Combat Stress” Causing More Soldiers to Take Antidepressants While Serving in Afghanistan

By June 15, 2011 Uncategorized

As the American military is still in combat in Afghanistan, it is not surprising that many soldiers are experiencing signs of depression and anxiety. The things that they go through every day would make anyone depressed or anxious; however, more and more frequently, the soldiers are being treating with antidepressants like Paxil and Effexor while still on tour rather than being sent home.

The Army is making an effort to treat traumatized soldiers “in theater” (where they’re stationed). The reasoning behind this move is that it is believed that the soldiers will heal better if they are kept around other soldiers that know what they are going through rather than being sent home to seek treatment among strangers. This move has some people wondering if the policy is a self-serving one on the part of the military, since treating soldiers on-site lets them quickly get the soldiers back into battle. The risks that have been linked to Paxil and Effexor can also cause some of the soldiers to snap and become a danger to themselves, other soldiers and civilians. This forces the military to spend far more time monitoring the soldiers that are suffering from combat stress.

Sgt. Thomas Riordan is one of the soldiers that is currently taking Effexor. His commanders with the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry of the Army’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, stated that they are doing what they can as far as his treatment goes while in Afghanistan, even though Riordan initially wanted to go back home. The 4th Brigade Combat Team are right to be concerned, since Fort Carson has recently gotten a great deal of attention in the news after returned soldiers have committed a string of murders there.

Riordan believes that in-theater treatment has helped a lot of his fellow soldiers; however, he also says that it’s never really done much to help him as the constant treatments just make him feel worse. While still stationed in Afghanistan, Riordan isn’t permitted to go anywhere that is outside the wire because he is not considered as stable. He also has admitted to having no friends in his unit.

With the war posing an obvious reason for depression and anxiety, it can post the question of just how dangerous Paxil and Effexor can be for these soldiers — especially with recent studies pointing out that antidepressants may not even work. One thing is certain: These drugs can make ordinary people want to kill. So just how damaging can these side effects be to trained soldiers? Even Terri Tanielian, a military health policy researcher with the RAND Corp. think tank, can’t answer that question with authority.

“There’s not been a lot of studies on those types of interventions,” Tanielian says. “There isn’t necessarily a magic formula that says who’s going to go back and be okay and who isn’t.”