Self-Medicating Veterans

Six journalism grad students working with ABC’s 20/20 spent the summer investigating the stories of soldiers who abuse drugs. In their TV report, soldiers speak to the students of going into war drug-free, but turning to cocaine, amphetamines, and prescription drugs to deal with their traumatic experiences. The military, on the other hand, seems unwilling to admit it has a problem.

Major Gamal Awad, for examples, tells of being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after rescuing survivors from the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, only to be re-deployed to Iraq. He says he was prescribed antidepressants so he could stay in the field. “I told them that I was having suicidal thoughts, that I would go out on convoys with the purpose to die,” he says in the interview. “It was hell.”

As 20/20's Brian Ross concludes,

"Our students uncovered that for those soldiers who did put their lives on the line and were affected by the trauma of war and did turn to drugs, it is a difficult lonely battle, and one the military would rather pretend is not happening."

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