Possible drug interactions complicate veterans’ already complex regimens
On January 3rd, 2016, the Jacksonville Daily News published an article titled “Marine’s struggle includes potentially deadly prescription cocktail.” In it, the paper told the story of a Marine staff sergeant who, after being wounded in Afghanistan in 2010, maintains a daily regimen of 16 pills per day.
The Daily News added that “[his wife] can no longer contain her outrage after [he] was prescribed a drug that if taken in conjunction with his current cocktail of medications potentially could have raised his serotonin levels to dangerous heights, a risk that she says—and the FDA warns—‘could’ve been deadly.’”
“I can’t carry them all at once,” the sergeant’s wife told the paper, referring to the plastic pill jars as she walked from her home’s kitchen to the dining room. “These are for nerves, anger and anxiety. Those are so he can go to sleep; and these ones are so he can stay asleep. One pill for pain, another for vomiting. This one is for coping with the memories of lost friends.”
“And that’s not counting the injections…every month,” she added. “They’re for low testosterone…the meds cause it.”
“This is [the Jacksonville staff sergeant’s] new standard operating procedure, and it has been for quite some time,” said the Daily News. On most days, the pills help him get through the day; however, since May 2015, his “episodes,” as his wife calls them, have been getting worse.
“For the staff sergeant, a Department of Veterans Affairs transition counselor and former infantry unit leader with Camp Lejeune’s 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, the pain stems from an incident just nine days before he was supposed to start his rotation back to the United States in 2010,” the daily reported.
The officer and his unit were in the midst of a battleground walk-through with another infantry unit that had just arrived to relieve them. Just as Taliban fighters arrived on the scene, a U.S. soldier from the incoming unit accidentally stepped on a hidden enemy improvised explosive device (IED), instantly killing that soldier and his buddy next to him. The latter was a personal friend of the staff sergeant, a young man he had recruited into the Marines himself, said the Daily News.
The unit leader—just a few days away from “ripping out” of the battle zone—sustained traumatic brain injury. Naturally, he still struggles with the hellish horror of the blast and with the loss of his friend and the other Marine Corps brothers killed that day.
He shows compassion for his fellow veterans and perspective in their plight, according to the article. “The problem is not the people in Jacksonville, they are working as hard as they can,” he said. “It’s what’s happening (at the VA) on the national level that is screwing everyone over. …Until reform happens there, the wait times between appointments, the multiple pills veterans are pushed will continue for guys who are really suffering. … I’m lucky compared to them.”