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The Military Medicine United States Technology

Army Reviews Controversial Drug After Afghan Massacre 195

Hugh Pickens writes "Time Magazine reports that after the massacre in which Staff Sgt. Robert Bales allegedly killed 17 civilians in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has ordered an urgent review of the use of the anti-malarial drug mefloquine, also known as Lariam, known to have severe psychiatric side effects including psychotic behavior, paranoia and hallucinations. 'One obvious question to consider is whether he was on mefloquine (Lariam), an anti-malarial medication,' writes Elspeth Cameron Ritchie in Time. 'This medication has been increasingly associated with neuropsychiatric side effects, including depression, psychosis, and suicidal ideation.' The drug has been implicated in numerous suicides and homicides, including deaths in the U.S. military. For years the military used the weekly pill to help prevent malaria among deployed troops, however in 2009 the U.S. Army nearly dropped use of mefloquine entirely because of the dangers, using it only in limited circumstances, including sometimes in Afghanistan. Army and Pentagon officials would not say whether Bales took the drug, citing privacy rules. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Jonathan Woodson has ordered a new, urgent review to make sure that troops were not getting the drug inappropriately. 'Some deployed service members may be prescribed mefloquine (PDF) for malaria prophylaxis without appropriate documentation in their medical records and without proper screening for contraindications,' the order says. It notes that this review must include troops at 'deployed locations.'"
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Army Reviews Controversial Drug After Afghan Massacre

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 30, 2012 @10:57AM (#39522831)
    Bales did nothing, and is getting blamed for what his platoon did. You cant shoot and burn 17 people and wake up with no memory of it, and multiple reports from witnesses say there were 15-20 men there.

    Army coverup?

    Army coverup.

  • Lariam? Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jholyhead ( 2505574 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:06AM (#39522941)
    Having known someone who suffered from Lariam induced psychosis some years ago, I find it shocking beyond belief that they would give this stuff to men with guns.

    Whether Bales was suffering from such psychosis at the time should be considered secondary - the US military was giving its soldiers a drug that can lead to violent psychotic episodes. The person who made that decision needs to be escorted to the cell adjoining Bales'.
  • by what2123 ( 1116571 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:15AM (#39523047)
    I don't doubt it in the lease bit. Much of the talk from vets has been a harsh resistance staying abroad and wanting to come home. Then you get this little bit of fun: []
  • Re:Law and Order (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AuralityKev ( 1356747 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:22AM (#39523123)
    It was SVU - and I swear I thought this story was a parody recap of that. Right down to it being an anti-malaria drug.
  • by History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @12:53PM (#39524267) Journal
    I took mefloquine for around three months while in Nepal. It does, without any doubt, have some strange psychological effects. In my case it took the form of strange "waking dreams", I could close my eyes and start dreaming without having to fall asleep. Add effects of this nature to a high-stress situation and you've got a person who probably shouldn't be allowed to wander around with a loaded rifle. Given the high praise that's been heaped on this soldier for his previous conduct and it wouldn't surprise me at all if mefloquine was an aggravating factor. Of course, there's no information on whether he was taking it or not, but if he was it's an urgent issue that needs to be dealt with ASAP.
  • by chrb ( 1083577 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @02:34PM (#39525723)

    Caspian Sea oil and gas [] unrecovered reserves are enormous, valued at over $10 trillion. Iran is currently a transit country for this, but the aim is to use Afghanistan instead. The Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline [] is a big part of this. Plans for an Afghan pipeline have been in the making for a long time, U.S. Congress testimony in 1998: []

    Mr. MARESCA. It's not going to be built until there is a single Afghan Government. That's the simple answer. We would not want to be in the situation where we became the target of the other faction. In any case, because of the financing situation, credits are not going to be available until there is a recognized government of Afghanistan.
    Mr. BEREUTER. So you are not making any suggestions about the prospects of that or timing of that. It's just you are not going to move or it's not going to be moved from another source until that happens. That would be your judgment?
    Mr. MARESCA. That's my judgment. We do of course follow very closely the negotiations which have been going on. We are hopeful that they will lead somewhere. All wars end. I think that's a universal rule. So one of these days this war too will end. Then I believe the pipeline will be secure.

    That war (officially) ended thanks to the U.S. military, Afghanistan was (officially) unified under the Karzai government, and in 2002 Karzai signed the TAPI pipeline deal. Very fast given the complexity of such a deal. The U.S. has invested $0.5 trillion in the Afghan War so far, that's quite a lot just to bring bin Laden to justice. That $0.5 trillion didn't magically disappear - it was given to corporations which have profited handsomely from this war. Some stand to profit even more in the future from the ability to export Caspian Sea oil and gas through Afghanistan. And it also isolates Iran further.

    Is it all a coincidence? It does seem awfully convenient...

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