Fox National News • May 27, 2013

To watch part 1 of the series, Drugging the American Soldier—Military’s Reliance on Powerful Psych Drugs, click here
Watch Part 2, click here
Watch Part 3, click here

Reporter Jamie Colby: Some really important concerns this Memorial Day weekend about the treatment our soldiers receive when they return from battle. And there’s a Fox News investigation into the increased use of powerful psychiatric drugs on our veterans and the impact these drugs are having. Our Douglas Kennedy looked into this as part of our series on drugging the American soldier.

Douglas Kennedy: Marine Corporal Andrew White survived the war in Iraq in 2005.

Stan White: Temper tantrums, tremors…

Douglas Kennedy: Unfortunately says his father Stanley, he could not survive the drug cocktail prescribed to him by his caregivers at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Stan White: Once they treat you for PTSD, the first line of treatment seems to be a series of medications. We call them “lethal cocktails.” And if it doesn’t work they increase the dosage, give you more and more and more and more….

Douglas Kennedy: Andrew was prescribed 19 different medications from the VA, and was on 5 drugs for insomnia when he accidentally died in his sleep in 2011. A cocktail that included the antidepressant Paxil, the anti-anxiety Klonopin and the antipsychotic Seroquel.

Peter Breggin: It’s inexcusable to be giving our military and our vets multiple psychiatric drugs and cocktails. They do no good, they do huge harm.

Douglas Kennedy: Peter Breggin is a psychiatrist, who says the military and VA’s use of psych drug cocktails is verging on criminal.

Peter Breggin: We now know that exposure to multiple drugs over a period of months or years leads to chronicity, it leads to disability…

Douglas Kennedy: And he says it leads to suicide and accidental death. Still between 2005 and 2011, the military and VA went on a spending spree with psychoactive medication. Increasing prescriptions by a whopping 682%. An increase, which this military spokesman defends.

Military Spokesman, Captain Michael Colston, MD, U.S. Navy Medical Corps: What might be appropriate in addition to giving an antidepressant drug, to give a medicine that helps with the anxiety for a little while and then when the anxiety goes away but the depression hasn’t still quite remitted, you may want to think about using another medication.

Douglas Kennedy: The military says the use of drug cocktails is safe if used as prescribed. What would you say?

Stan White: I do not agree. There’s no research available that we know of that says that multiple drugs are safe.

Douglas Kennedy: Unfortunately he says his son was a guinea pig, for what he calls psych drug experiments. In Charleston, West Virginia, Douglas Kennedy, Fox News.

News Anchor: The concept of first do no harm has been a foundation of medicine for ages. But now we’re learning doctors and others caring for the nation’s war heroes may actually be doing more harm than good. Correspondent Douglas Kennedy continues our look at the toxic combination of veterans and too many drugs.

Douglas Kennedy: It was in 2009 when former Navy Corpsman, Kelli Grese, first overdosed on the medication prescribed to her by a doctor from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Her sister, Darla, says the problem seemed obvious. In your opinion, VA doctors were writing too many prescriptions for too many drugs.

Darla: Absolutely. They are dispensing pills by the hundreds.

Douglas Kennedy: Kelli’s cocktail included Adderall, Klonopin and Seroquel and at least 15 other powerful psychiatric drugs. Darla says her sister was hooked and her mental state was clearly deteriorating. You went to her VA doctors…

Darla: I did.

Douglas Kennedy: And told them to stop prescribing her all these drugs.

Darla: I did, and actually at one point in 2000, I actually, uninvitingly busted into the Chief of Staff’s office and begged him to stop his physicians from prescribing pills.

Douglas Kennedy: But the doctors wouldn’t listen to Darla and in 2010 Kelli died of an overdose. Her stomach full of drugs now increasingly used by the VA and military for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. VA doctors for instance, gave her the Seroquel for the unapproved symptom of insomnia and Adderall is only approved to treat attention deficit disorder, a condition which Kelli did not have.

Robert Haddad: The side effects, especially in Kelli’s instance were devastating…

Douglas Kennedy: Robert Haddad is Darla’s attorney who successfully sued the VA in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Robert Haddad: Thousands of drugs being dispensed everyday for purposes that they were never intended to be used and having a devastating effects on the vets.

Douglas Kennedy: The VA refused to comment on Kelli’s case directly, but in court papers maintain the monetary settlement with Darla was not, quote, “an admission of liability or fault on the part of the United States.” The VA says your sister’s death was not the fault of VA doctors.

Darla: Yes…they do.

Douglas Kennedy: What do you say?

Darla: I say, it infuriates me. I think her death was inevitable and any human brain could not sustain the chemicals that they were giving her.

Douglas Kennedy: She says the VA is using drugs off label to mask the problems that soldiers face when they complete their duty. In Virginia Beach, Virginia, Douglas Kennedy, Fox News.

Chris Wallace: Tonight, we continue our look at how veterans back home from war are being treated with drugs that have the potential to do more harm than good. Correspondent Douglas Kennedy has the story of one vet who’s been told he’s lucky to be alive.

Douglas Kennedy: You were taking SeroquelKlonopin and Depakote, all at the same time.

Charles Perkins: Yes.

Douglas Kennedy: What was the result?

Charles Perkins: Well of course, I gained about 100 pounds, now I have diabetes; I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes.

Douglas Kennedy: In November, 2004, Charles Perkins returned from Iraq and like many veterans, he was immediately sent to a psychiatrist from the Department of Veterans Affairs to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Over a period of a year, you saw 13 different VA psychiatrists, many of them giving you different diagnoses.

Charles Perkins: Yes, and it was very hard going from doctor to doctor.

Douglas Kennedy: And most giving him more and more prescriptions. In fact, Perkins ended up with 25 different prescriptions for 25 different drugs—all prescribed by VA doctors. You ended up going to see your own doctor, and he told you, you were lucky to be alive.

Charles Perkins: He said I was on a cocktail of poison.

Douglas Kennedy: And Perkins isn’t alone in receiving mood altering medication from the military and VA. In fact, over the past ten years, the military and VA spent over $2 billion medicating its men and women, with anti-anxiety and antipsychotic medication. It’s a huge expenditure this spokesman defends.

Capt. Michael Colston, US Navy Medical Corp: In the last decade, we’ve made great strides increasing access to care while decreasing stigma in getting that care.

Douglas Kennedy: A stance psychiatrist Peter Breggin says seems compassionate but is in reality irresponsible.

Peter Breggin: When you have so many soldiers on psychiatric drugs, you are producing chronic mental patients.

Douglas Kennedy: Breggin says most psych medications alter brain chemistry, which often creates a lifelong dependence.

Peter Breggin: It can be horrific to try to come off of many of these psychiatric drugs and many times patients simply can’t get off of them.

Douglas Kennedy: Many doctors say once you start these medications, it is almost impossible to get off. What does that mean for you?

Charles Perkins: If I stop taking the medications, then I start having nightmares, sleepless nights.

Douglas Kennedy: He’s only 37 years-old, but he knows he will be on psych drugs for the rest of his life, a consequence, he says, of trusting his VA care givers. In Charleston, West Virginia, Douglas Kennedy, Fox News.

Douglas Kennedy was the first national reporter to link antidepressant medications to adolescent suicide and violence, prompting government hearings that eventually resulted in the black box warnings from the Food and Drug Administration. Most recently he exposed an Internet fraud selling phony cancer drugs to the terminally ill, in which the owner of the Web site was later indicted. Previously he worked at the New York Post as a crime reporter and solved a double homicide in Queens by finding a dead body before the cops. Read more about Douglas Kennedy here.

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