On the Front Lines: Better Living Through Chemistry

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We reported on the growing use of prescription drugs by troops in Afghanistan and Iraq more than three years ago. The Pentagon is finally catching up. It wants to spend $23 million next year for drug testing to make sure troops aren’t illicitly taking legal drugs like Valium and Vicodin.

But the House Appropriations Committee has a warning:

The Committee is greatly concerned by survey data that indicate a sharp rise in prescription drug abuse within the military…While the Department’s drug testing program already covers some prescription pharmaceuticals, the program focuses primarily on testing for illicit drugs for the purpose of measuring personnel readiness and pursuing disciplinary action when necessary. The upward trend in prescription drug abuse is, first and foremost, a direct consequence of the extraordinary burdens placed upon the force under the high operations tempo of the last decade. Due diligence must be exercised to ensure that cases of prescription drug abuse are handled properly by the chain of command, and that wounded warriors are not unduly punished for prescription drug abuse that may arise from improper medical care.

Makes Vietnam-era concerns over heroin and marijuana seem almost quaint.