Monday, February 04, 2008

Depressed Soldier Better Fighters?

Will We Drug Soldier to Make Them Depressed? - Annalee Newitz @ io9

Some of you might remember this photograph from early in the Iraq war of a soldier taking a break after a long night of fighting. I remember reading an article (note: this is not the original article I read, but you'll get the gist of it) nearly a year later about this soldier, Blake Miller, who suffers from severe PTSD. It's soldiers like this that make me proud of our armed forces, but at the same time make me wonder about the stresses we as a country put them through without serious thought or care. Miller became a poster-boy for the Iraq war and now he sees Iraqis he killed walking down the street and can't seem to get over the edginess his time in the war has ingrained in him. The toll that it has taken, his wife divorced him in 2006, is something I never want to hear about from returning soldiers. My cousin-in-law, Marine of nearly fifteen years, came back from Iraq with a Purple Heart he doesn't talk about and even now he knows he will have to return to Iraq at some point in the future.
So now, via the folks at io9, I hear that depressing soldier might have beneficial effects on their ability to take on highly dangerous situations. A report Newitz has found claims that giving soldiers serotonin inhibitors would produce soldiers more likely to take risks that otherwise non-depressed soldiers wouldn't. For those of you fortunate enough not to have needed anti-depressants let me explain what serotoin and serotoin-related drugs do. Your standard SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) is a common anti-depressant that improves your mood by keeping more serotonin in the body. It's loosely similar to the effects of MDMA, or ecstacy, in that the more serotonin you have in the body the better you feel. By introducing a drug that inhibits the release of serotonin you are intentionally producing a depressing effect.
This kind of thinking sickens me. At a time when we have seen twice the number of Iraq veterans take their own lives than were killed in combat we have government reports suggesting that we should depress our soldiers even further? What unholy insanity is this?

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