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.
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.