Pentagon admits to ‘overdose epidemic’ – media
More than 15,000 US military service members have overdosed on illicit drugs in the past five years, and 332 of those cases have resulted in death, the Pentagon has reportedly admitted in response to questions from Congress.
The data was given this week to five US senators, led by Massachusetts Democrats Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, Rolling Stone reported on Wednesday. The senators had written to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin last September, demanding information on overdoses in the ranks, after the magazine revealed that as many as 30 US soldiers died from overdoses at Fort Bragg in 2020 and 2021. The base in North Carolina is the headquarters for America’s special forces, among other things.
“The loss of a single service member to a fatal overdose is one loss too many,” Markey said on Wednesday. “With hundreds of fatal overdoses reported on US military bases, the toll is mounting. We can and must stop America’s overdose crisis.”
The loss of a single service member to a fatal overdose is one loss too many. With hundreds of fatal overdoses reported on U.S. military bases, the toll is mounting—we can and must stop America's overdose crisis. https://t.co/w0VcanB9Eu— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) February 15, 2023
Fentanyl accounted for more than half of the military overdose deaths, the Pentagon said. In fact, deaths from the synthetic opioid have more than doubled since 2017, following a similar trajectory with America’s overall drug crisis. The US had nearly 107,000 civilian overdose deaths in 2021, including more than 71,000 linked to fentanyl, according to government data.
The military’s overdose deaths have paralleled those in the civilian population in other ways, too. For instance, 96% of those who died were enlisted service members, rather than officers, just as the vast majority of civilian cases involve people without college degrees. The overwhelming majority of service members who died from drug overdoses were white males under the age of 33.
There were high concentrations of overdoses at bases that host Army infantrymen, Green Berets, and other elite soldiers, Rolling Stone wrote, claiming “this is likely no coincidence,” as these formations have “borne nearly all of the brunt of the past decade of war in Afghanistan and a half-dozen other countries.”