Battleland

The Lariam Mystery Continues

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U.S. troops patrol in the Panjwai District of Kandahar Province, near where Bales allegedly murdered 16 Afghan civilians.

In March 2012, Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales allegedly massacred 16 Afghan villagers. I posted a blog then, wondering if he could have been on mefloquine (Lariam), an anti-malarial agent.

The silence from the Defense Department has been deafening.

There were a lot of indications that he could have been: he was in an area of Afghanistan where malaria is endemic, he worked with Special Forces, who still use Lariam, and from media reports, the constellation of unusual symptoms (olfactory hallucinations, memory loss) and behavior (dissociation, impulsive, murderous rage) certainly suggests some sort of intoxication.

On the other hand, his lawyer has not suggested this as a defense as the case drags on, readying for a possible court martial on 16 counts of murder. To the best of my knowledge, no one has come forward and said that they knew he or other members of his unit were on mefloquine.

army

There are numerous reports strongly implicating mefloquine in impulsive violent behavior, including suicides. New research is revealing the potent effects of the drug on the limbic system, the portion of the brain responsible for memory and aggression.

Yet, on the other hand, the military has denied the role of mefloquine in similar episodes, including a cluster of murder-suicides at Fort Bragg nearly 10 years ago.

What surprises me, in the face of this controversy, is that the Pentagon has neither confirmed nor denied whether Bales was on mefloquine. Which means one of three things:

– He was on mefloquine (which is concerning since mefloquine is contraindicated by policy in soldiers, like SSG Bales, with a history of TBI).

– He was not on mefloquine (in which case, why doesn’t the Defense Department make that clear?).

– The Pentagon does not know whether he was on mefloquine or not, which would be even more alarming, given the policy that its screening and use be documented.

Just weeks prior to the alleged massacre, the military’s top physician acknowledged that some soldiers were still being dispensed mefloquine without proper documentation. He ordered an urgent review of prescribing practices, including at deployed locations such as Afghanistan. This review was further speeded in the wake of the massacre that followed.

This review was closed out nearly six months ago. But so far, the military has not released its findings, or further commented on the possible role of mefloquine in this case.

The military has mandated that all its members learn about mefloquine and the possible side-effects of the medication.

Suicide rates  in the military continue to rise. The Centers for Disease Control now concedes that the neuropsychiatric side effects of mefloquine may even confound the diagnosis and management of posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

At the very least, it appears time for the military to stop using mefloquine completely in favor of alternate, and safe, anti-malarials.

Thanks to Dr. Remington Nevin for contributing to this post. 

32 comments
ToxicJo
ToxicJo

Why is the military dispensing Lariam?  It offers little protection against contracting malaria, same applies to other anti-malarials, and Doxy.  Why is the military not keeping dispensing records? A Danish study show 90% suffer CNS side effects, mild to severe. 

Multisystems damage inflicted by Lariam does not justify risk vs benefits.  

Hellish neurological and CNS symptoms can take years to dissipate, leaving sufferers with severe cognitive dysfunction, and significant lowered IQ,  organs failure, arrythmias, diabetes, thyroid, toxic hepatitis, immune dysfunction, re-activation of dormant infections, dermatological symptoms, allergies, MCS, encephalitis, Sjogren's, and may more symptoms.

Delayed symptoms can develop years after ingestion. No epidemiological studies (prospective cohort .retrospective cohort studies) on immediate & long terms effects to determine causal effects,   CONVENIENT.

 

 

John Krats
John Krats

Re-institute the draft, no exceptions, male or female, dumb or smart.  Then all of these bozos sans military experience will gain a rapid understanding of just what the military life is about.

Then, dumb or smart, they figure out that every service member is in fact a guinea pig.  The best part is that they will no longer be divorced from the reality of the world these days.

Idiots who never serve are ill equipped to comment on our service.

Neko El Gato
Neko El Gato

Anything to rationalize dragging small children out of their beds and murdering them like a thief in the night, I guess...

Of course, over the years Time hasn't really done anything but provide endless rationalizations peppered with optimistic declarations of endless "progress" during these pointless wars.  Heck of a job.

ranndino
ranndino

Ms Ritchie, I find it interesting that no one ever wonders whether terrorists were under the influence of some drug when they perpetrate horrible crimes (and no one certainly has any interest in looking at mitigating circumstances like their entire family being wiped out by our military in one blast... they're just evil and that's that), but when it's an American that's involved "an American can never be wrong" apologists like you try to turn over every stone to find some justification for what he has done. Is your belief in the postulate that an American can do no wrong really that strong?

When this happened I immediately predicted that somehow, some way, someone will find a way to not let justice takes its course because, looking at history, an incredible double standard has always been applied in such cases. Do you remember how much time the US marines who perpetrated the My Lai massacre served? My prediction is that something similar will happen in this case. I can see that the campaign of excuses for Srgt. Bales' actions is already well underway.

Bales will eventually serve some time in a psychiatric ward and be let out once this story dies down and everyone stateside forgets about it. Justice will not be served. At that point you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

Then when one of the relatives of the people he killed perpetrates an act of terror against us we will not report any connection to Srgt. Bales' actions. We'll just inhale a good dose of self righteous indignation and call them an evil terrorist who hates our freedom.

Eric Miles
Eric Miles

You should know that Mefloquine is a quinolone drug.  Other popular quinolones are Cipro, Levaquin, and Avelox.  Cipro has been implicated in the adverse side effects suffered by the D.C. postal workers in the 9/11 anthrax letter scares.  They were given large doses of Cipro.  A large percent of these workers subsequently developed adverse side effects, some of which are permanent.  I have suffered severe and non-abating side effects from Cipro as well.  These drugs, despite numerous Black Box warnings issued by the FDA, are still prescribed with reckless abandon by doctors instead of being used as the drug of last resort.  The constellation of symptoms described in this article (olfactory hallucinations, memory loss, dissociation, impulsive, murderous rage) are all well known characteristics of what is called Fluoroquinolone Toxicity Syndrome by those that have suffered them and recognize the cause.  There is even a non profit organization that was created to research and combat the increasing number of people adversely affected by these drugs (http://www.saferpills.org/).  There have also been a few articles published recently addressing this issue.  Here are two:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/me...

http://www.prweb.com/releases/...

This issue is real and is devastating to those, such as myself, that have been affected by these drugs.  The research is actually already there and has been done by the medical community.  The fact is that these drugs can cripple and kill, and do so on a regular basis.

Tonggie9
Tonggie9

Our solders are being used as  Big Pharms lab rats.   Why do they continue to use vaccines prior to any infection or outbreak ?  It is insane.......look at our Gulf War vets from the anthrax theory. How many were exposed to anthrax?  How many are now in wheel chairs and suffering from the side effects of Cipro. The same toxins are in Cipro that are in Mefloquine.  I am sure they have made these vaccines mandatory and that is not right. This is political  for finacial gain.

Our men and women fight for our freedom and they are poisoned by the government before they even get to battle ground  !

ScottMc
ScottMc

They've known about this drug for decades.  I was involved in an Australian army (guinea pig?) trial of Mefloquine in East Timor in 2001. The label in those days said 1 in 10000 would develop serious side effects (what are the odds, we thought) At the conclusion of a trial which I didn't reach the end of, it was conceded that at least 1 in 100 suffered severe reactions.  (5 hospitalisations out of a study of 500) Hence the label changes in 2002. That was the tip of the iceberg though. I saw flipouts, epileptic seizures and major depression in a military environment that can be depressing enough. Upon return to Australia I overheard my new commanding officer ask our adjutant "What on earth is wrong with these men? In 17 years I've never seen so many disciplinary problems..." In many cases the problem was Mefloquine, and I suspect he knew it. On a personal level, the drug caused me family breakdowns and an emotional numbness I'm only barely getting back. My old childhood friends finally and nervously pulled me aside and said: "there's something wrong with you that wasn't wrong before." In the end, like others, I sought help through the military chain of command. You're immediately ostracised. Then you're treated for some form of PTSD they haven't researched yet. The shrinks think the solution is to put you on sleeping tablets and anti-depressants (yay, more side-effects) -Lariam is mental disorder in a box. Use Doxy, or better still, give malaria a chance.

N_Corrigan
N_Corrigan

I see that there are alot of Somolia Vets here commenting,  you may be  more sickened when I say over 20 years laters, my husband came home from deployment last year with most of the same symptoms after being poisioned with mefloquine.  It was almost as if  someone had literally taken his mind out and replaced it with a monsters'.  Mefloquine is a bad drug.  The problem is that a huge injustice has been done to our U.S soldiers and no one wants the finger to be pointed at them!  It is only obvious that a mistake has been made but no longer can be brushed under the rug.  My question is why would they give a soldier a medication that conveniently allows them to have NO FEAR, NO EMOTION, Suicidal ideations, violent behavior and just plain psychosis right before and while in a combat area? Label it an "anti-malarial" drug and they've got themselves a lean mean mindless drone.  Combat perfect! Was SSGT Bales on mefloquine? I bet he was.

airborneron
airborneron

During my deployment to Somalia in 1993, I was given mefloquine as an anti-malarial drug. This poison did things to me that I could have never imagined. I was found sleep walking one night in Somalia, with no weapon and wearing only a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. My anxieties, anger, and other emotions heightened to what are medically considered "unhealthy levels". The effects were neither pleasant, nor short-term. If I had known then what I know now, I might have risked the malaria instead. In so many ways this poison drug changed me, and I have vestibular issues, permanent dilation in one eye, and my balance issues are just plain ridiculous, unless of course you don't mind falling down on a regular basis. This drug has caused so much hell in my life that I don’t even know where to begin.

airborneron
airborneron

After taking Mefloquine in Somalia during my six month tour in 1993, I not only noticed immediate changes in my mental state and behavior, but felt borderline delusional at times. For instance, I was caught sleep walking one night, without a weapon, wearing only a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. This was not a wise choice of attire in Somalia at the time. Also, I felt unbelievable amounts of stress, anger, and also felt that there was no outlet for these strong emotions and feelings to go. My anxiety levels were extremely elevated, and my temper, though typically normal and not particularly noteworthy at the time, went from seemingly stable to erratic, where it has stayed for the lat 19 years.  Mefloquine is poison, and I would almost liken it to "Jacob's Ladder" from another earlier generation. I've seen the effects of Malaria up close and personal, and I can honestly say that I would rather look back at 19 years being a one-time malaria patient than what I have felt, thought, and suffered with as a direct result of mefloquine.

David Haines
David Haines

My dearest Elspeth,

While I really appreciate your work in keeping this in the publics eye I am dismayed with the fact that you haven't come out publicly and commented on something we, mefloquine victims, already know. We know that the team sent to Fort Bragg to investigate the mefloquine connection to the Fort Bragg killings was hand picked and arrived at Bragg with a conclusion already in hand before the investigation began. Please elaborate on this in your next blog post.

P.S. Great work on this article!

SapperX
SapperX

 I was also in Somalia for ORH. At the time I dont remember any issues after takin Mefloquine. But now I have short term memory loss, stomach problems, hearing problems, sleeping issues, and many other unexplained issues. I have had stomach problems since I returned home after separation from the service. These issues for me have made it almost impossible to work do to the frequent doctor appointments and just plain being sick all the time. And like Mark Ulinski, I dont sleep more than a few hours a night if Im lucky. Thousands of vets are suffering from the long term side effects of this drug. Long term side effects need to be studied to be understood! This drug is toxic and needs to be banned from all use. I stand with my fellow vets and will not waver in our fight to understand what has been done to us. Sappers Forward!

jeffkaye
jeffkaye

Whether or not Bales took mefloquine, what bugs me about Ritchie's articles on this is that she never alludes to other testimony by eyewitnesses that there were multiple soldiers, even a helicopter, present at the killings. This aspect of the story, originally reported by CNN, has been buried. Hence, the assumptions about Bales must assume that DoD is being correct in their rendition of the events, an assumption that is by itself dubious.

As for the mefloquine, there is no doubt that the drug is dangerous and can do harm. One wonders then why to this day former top military psychiatrist Col. Ritchie does not comment on the fact the drug was given in treatment doses to all of the incoming detainees at Guantanamo, a fact mentioned by Dr. Nevin, who Ritchie thanks at the end of this article, in a recent journal article at Tropical Medicine and International Health, and a fact, moreover, that he notes raises serious questions. 

Well, Dr. Ritchie, what do you have to say about the use of mefloquine at Guantanamo? Do you have any insight as to why two of six purported detainee suicides at that facility were tested post-mortem for the presence of mefloquine?

ScottMc
ScottMc

It's not healthy. Get rid of it.

Bill__M
Bill__M

...rumors that Bales went on his rampage due to Roid Rage are discountable since they come from the same Armyspin masters that told us that Jessica Lych was a hero and who also fabricated the Tillman story. Roid Rage does not cause this type of behavior.... otherwise there would be highschool football players on death row all over the country.

Bill__M
Bill__M

I want to again applaud Dr. Ritchie for her bravery in keeping this story public. Yes, this drug can cause in some people  hallucinations and a severe anger and personality change….real Dr. Jekyll /Mr. Hyde stuff that I saw first hand. In fact, after maintaining a very high level security clearance for many years, it was Navy medical who first introduced me and the members of my deployment team to this psychedelic drug…particularly when two safer alternatives are available – Malrone and doxycycline.  

   Plainly speaking, Mefloquine(Lariam) should not be issued to people carrying weapons in foreign countries. Since it has a very long plasma half-life of 15 to 33 days, the effects are far from temporary.

   The upper levels of the military medical chain of command know this but are powerless to enforce any change since medical staffs in the field are given free rein to do as the please and with no accountability. Orders coming from the top of the operational chain of command are enforceable with the full weight of the UCMJ, yet policy directives from the top of the medical chain of command are routinely discounted by the lower ranks as "recommendations".... this is unheard of on the operational side.

Commander Bill Manofsky USN(ret)

Nate Tyler
Nate Tyler

Mefloquine is a dangerous, toxic drug that was mandatory to take while I was deployed to Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. Tens of thousands were administered this drug at that time. I have seen documentation that 18% of troops noted symptoms of anxiety and restlessness. I believe the numbers to be grossly under reported. The truth needs to come from the Department of Defense, the House and the Senate. They know the answers. Is this todays Agent Orange? Many of us know how long it took to right that wrong. 2 decades after taking this toxic drug, I too suffer from numerous unexplained symptoms that I strongly believe to be mefloquine related. In saying that, I have very strong feelings that this toxic drug needs to be banned!

Mark Ulinski
Mark Ulinski

And I hope you are just being sarcastic with your post Nudelmann.....

Mark Ulinski
Mark Ulinski

I took Mefloquine while deployed to Somalia in 1993. Unexplained or out of character actions were a common occurrence by troops that took it. Some were very extreme to the point I had a fellow soldier draw down on me locked and loaded. It doesn't end with just how troops acted. Medical issues have also been felt by troops that took it. I myself, deal with daily digestive, short term memory loss, speech issues, high blood pressure, low testosterone levels, hearing issues, dizziness and the inability to sleep for more that 2-3 hours at a time 20 years later. The amount of troops that deal with these issues that took Mefloquine is quite staggering. My health along with others has put us in positions to not even be able to maintain gainful employment.

John Stockton
John Stockton

I took Mefloquine 20 years ago in Somalia and saw numerous

people react in very odd ways. Things like a Scout platoon member pulling his

rifle on his squad leader and other soldiers commit suicide. Personally I didn't have any ill effects (other than some nerve twitching) at the time but now, two

decades later, suffer from numerous un-explained symptoms that appear to be

Mefloquine related.

Did Bales take it? I don’t know, but I sure wish we knew.

Would it excuse him for what he did? No, but it might explain it.

Nudelmann
Nudelmann

Yes, Yes. Blame it all on the drugs

Andy Wisniewski
Andy Wisniewski

Lots of other people take malaria pills and don't go on killing rampages he has no defense for his actions.

Tonggie9
Tonggie9

When I heard this story I suspected it was from some kind of side effect to a drug. It is insane what the gov allows Big Pharm to use the military as lab rats !  I have been posioned by Avelox Cipro and Levaquin I am not the person I use to be.  Come visit our boards www.saferpills.org   I am looking to a fecal transplant to restore my gut and praying it will restore my brain. Lots  of articleson fecal transplants.  Dr Lawrence Brandt in the NY Bronx does them for everthing .He is doing them for reaction  to           quinolone drugs

WoobieTuesday
WoobieTuesday

 Mr. Wisniewski... you would do yourself a favor to do some research on Lariam / mefloquine before you go spouting off at the mouth absent any education on the topic. There are a whole host of "malaria pills" and nobody is claiming that all of them cause psychosis and paranoia. However, if you would do just a cursory review of Lariam /mefloquine which is the subject of this article, you would see that there have been MANY cases of killing rampages and suicides as a result of brain damage caused by toxicity to this drug. Does this mean that everybody who has ever taken Lariam / Mefloquine has gone on a killing spree? NO. There are a small percentage of individuals who do have a toxic reaction. The more you learn about the drug, the more you learn that there are also certain co-occurring factors which can create this deadly reaction. At a minimum, the brain damage suffered by those who have experienced toxicity is irreversible. Have a little sympathy, not only for the innocents who were killed, but for this warrior who has been tortured by this drug after giving his all to his country.

mk045
mk045

Clearly, you didn't bother to actually comprehend anything the article

was trying to communicate.  What scares me is that you probably vote...

ranndino
ranndino

Exactly what he said. Pretty sure it was rather clear. 

Don't you think it's interesting that when some Middle Easterner does something awful like this no one ever blames it on some drugs? He was a terrorist and should be eliminated. But when an American does the same exact thing then we have to find an excuse and make him into a victim of some drugs. The double standard is mind boggling as is the victim culture of this country and lack of ability to accept responsibility for one's actions. 

Yes, Bales is an American so why don't we just blame this little episode on some drug (based on pure speculation without any proof since even his attorney hasn't said anything about this) and let him off with a couple of years in a psychiatric ward. After all he just murdered a bunch of brown people somewhere in Afghanistan. No big deal. Wasn't my neighborhood.

ranndino
ranndino

Exactly what he said. Pretty sure it was rather clear.

Don't you think it's interesting that when some Middle Easterner does something awful like this no one ever blames it on some drugs. He was an asshole terrorist and should be eliminated. But when an American does the same exact thing then we have to find an excuse and make him into a victim of some drugs. The double standard is mind boggling as is the victim culture of this country and lack of ability to accept responsibility for one's actions.

Yes, Bales is an American so why don't we just blame this little episode on some drug (based on pure speculation without any proof since even his attorney hasn't said anything about this) and let him off with a couple of years in a psychiatric ward. After all he just murdered a bunch of brown people somewhere in Afghanistan. No big deal. Wasn't my neighborhood.  

ranndino
ranndino

Oh, he's a warrior now? Why not take it all the way and just call him a hero? You know you want to. Somehow I doubt you'd be motivated to make these type of excuses for a Muslim terrorist who did the same thing here in the US, let alone your neighborhood.

Bales is not a warrior. Killing a bunch of civilians including women and children while they're asleep are not actions of a warrior. Bales is a terrorist, just from our side. Stop making excuses just because he's American. There are horrible people among any nation, including ours. 

What happened to personal responsibility in this country? It's always someone or something else's fault when we do something terrible, isn't it? But when "they" do the same thing it's totally their fault. Apologists for any action of an American, regardless of how horrible (and this was as bad as it gets) are the last to find any mitigating circumstance in the actions of foreign terrorists. It doesn't matter if we possibly killed their entire family with one blast. Nothing excuses them. But when it's one of ours the list of excuses is endless. He was on multiple tours of duty, he had PTSD, now there's this mysterious drug with no evidence he ever took because his own lawyer has never mentioned it. What else are you "Americans can never be wrong" apologists are gonna come up with?

I know that objective reasoning isn't a strong suit of most Americans, but this really takes it to new heights. Actually maybe it doesn't. History teaches us that Americans never pay for the same actions they'd scream about and label war crimes if anyone else did the same thing. Does My Lai ring a bell? How much time did the perpetrators of that war crime serve before the Republican pressure on our government let them go free?

ranndino
ranndino

Yes, only the people who agree with your opinion on every subject should be able to vote. That would be democracy at its finest.

lariam_survivor
lariam_survivor

@mk045  

Wait, doesn't the article specifically state that there is currently NO evidence that he took Lariam? Only some speculation that he may have taken it?  This article isn't based on fact, logic, or evidence!

mk045
mk045

No, it's just frightening that there are people who seem to take any statement and twist it around into nonsense. And the more it's based on fact, logic, or evidence, the more they feel compelled to find (or fabricate) disagreement or controversy. Those shrill, loud voices carry far too much weight among the less informed.

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