National: Amendment will allow study of antidepressant use and suicide rate among combat troops
U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) has announced that the Senate has adopted his amendment 1475 to the National Defense Authorization Act. This amendment mandates a study of the increased use of antidepressants among combat troops and the effect of these drugs on mental health. In a press release, Senator Cardin said his introduction of the Amendment is based upon the disturbing increase of suicides and attempted suicides in the active military.
The senator stated: "It is imperative that we determine if the Department of Defense (DoD) is prescribing anti-depressants to its service members appropriately, including the necessary observation by a highly trained mental health provider. My concern is not the long-term efficacy of these drugs, but the sheer volume and manner in which these drugs are being administered to our service men and women overseas." The release says the Army's Fifth Mental Health Advisory Team 2007 report indicated 12% of combat troops in Iraq and 17% of troops in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to cope with stress. The senator added nearly 40% of Army suicide victims in 2006 and 2007 might have taken some type of antidepressant drugs.
Senator Cardin's amendment has directives for the DoD to record the volume and types of antidepressants, psychotropics or anti-anxiety drugs being prescribed to the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The amendment will also require the DoD, starting in June of 2010 and then annually through 2015, to report to Congress an accurate percentage of those troops that have been prescribed such drugs.