by John Cory
By the numbers we count the fallen
And all the syllables that kill
And all the lies that bury hearts
And make our breathing still
And cold. By the numbers we mourn the fallen
In this whirlwind of war and lie
Where one tear is too many
And a thousand not enough
For each one that has to die
Because – Why?
– John Cory
While the high school heathers of the press corps rush to generate in-depth analysis of the hairstyle and cleavage of candidates or who looks presidential as opposed to who acts presidential, the real issues get shuttled aside in polls and punditry and primary politico-image management.
At some point there will be one of those staged affairs where they take questions from the audience, the everyday folk – the voters. So let me step up to the microphone and ask a question:
When does 9/11 + 935 = 3,391?
When lies kill.
Nine hundred thirty-five false statements (lies) moved this nation into a war that has resulted in 3,391 deaths so far.
The folks who see profit and growth in the numbers of veterans of this war – the health care insurers – know an opportunity when they see one. In her December 2007 report, Emily Berry for American Medical News gives us a tour by the numbers:
There have been 30,000 troops wounded in action; 39,000 have been diagnosed with PTSD; 84,000 vets suffer a mental health disorder; 229,000 veterans have sought VA care, and 1.4 million troops (active duty and reserves) have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan so far. Estimates run between $350 billion to $700 billion needed for lifetime care and benefits for veterans.
And now, making the rounds in Washington is a plan that has become known as “The Psychological Kevlar Act of 2007” which reaches out to the pharmaceutical industry to partner with the Department of Defense to use the drug Propranalol to treat symptoms of PTSD even before a soldier succumbs to full-blown PTSD. An ounce of prevention, after all, is worth funding for experimentation, I mean research. A numb soldier is a happy soldier.
Here is a much more in-depth article on this plan by the military at Alternet.
I have much more to say on this..
Propranalol (Inderal) is a beta blocker. Many heart patients take it daily at high dosages. It is fairly inexpensive..
This drug prevents the sympathetic response to the “fight or flight” response, that rush of adrenaline you get when faced with fear. It crosses over to the brain, can cause some sedation, and it can also cause depression and fatigue. It lowers pulse and blood pressure, and the sweating response to stress.
I have firsthand experience with this drug, having taken it at an extremely low dose for “performance anxiety” over a number of years. The dosage they are tossing around for our soldiers is much higher. For myself, it made it possible to play my instrument for audiences without getting the pounding heart, the buzzing in the ears, the shaking hands and knees, the inability to control my breathing, the sweating, the nausea and numb face – all those things that accompany extreme performance anxiety. I have a pretty sensitive nervous system.. The downside was the terrible fatigue that would follow the performance and into the next day. I would be extremely tired and the muscles in my arms and legs would feel very heavy. I can’t imagine what it would be like at a much higher dosage.
Soldiers need to be hyper-aware and ready to spring into action when they are in the middle of the fighting. They need to be able to have their blood pressure rise so they will have the right blood flow to the lungs and muscles when the “fight or flight” response kicks into action. With Propranalol, it would prevent the rise in blood pressure and pulse. It would numb the mind. They need full use of their mental function in order to think quickly – their lives may very well depend on it. They can’t afford to be even more fatigued – as stressed and overworked as they already are. It is contraindicated in people with asthma, and can cause arrhythmias.
I think this is a very bad idea. This isn’t just about a “numb soldier”, this will put our soldiers at even greater risk by removing their ability to spring into action when the situation calls for it. It could mean the difference in acting quick enough to save their own lives, and the lives of their fellow soldiers. In the event of trauma and blood loss, a beta blocker could exacerbate the hypotension and prevent the appropriate increase in blood pressure necessary to increase blood flow to the vital organs – such as the brain.
Soldiers carry those very heavy packs on their backs, often times in extreme heat. It raises your heart rate as more blood flows to the muscles in your arms and legs. With Propranalol on board, your heart rate doesn’t increase, and that extra blood flow doesn’t go where it is needed. It prevents maximal exercise performance when the need arises.
There is just so much more I could say..
This seems to be just another ‘cost-effective’, short-sighted fix by the military to a terrible problem they are facing with such high incidences of PTSD and suicides that are a result of their extended and multiple tours of duty under the worst of conditions due to a stretched to breaking point military.
My husband who is a physician and student of medical ethics tells me at the very least, the military should be able to cite studies that show the effectiveness and safety of this approach and the results of long term follow-up. In the absence of such data, he believes experimentation on our troops is ethically questionable, and he believes, morally unconscionable. My husband thinks this is a SPECTACULARLY bad idea.
The solution isn’t to drug our soldiers in order get even more out of them, or to avoid long term cost due the mental or emotional trauma of this terrible war, the solution is to bring our soldiers home and end this war.