ABC investigates 'soldiers hooked on drugs'
During the Vietnam War, the stereotype of the drug-addicted veteran was commonplace. Now a similar question is arising about veterans of the Iraq War.
The Pentagon denies that it has a drug issue in Iraq comparable to what occurred in Vietnam, but veterans groups are charging that the problem is greater than the Pentagon admits and is getting worse.
ABC News decided to investigate by sending half a dozen journalism graduate students to speak to the soldiers themselves about "what some in the military did not want known."
Matthew McKane told the students he began using cocaine while serving as a medic in Baghdad, then found it was even easier to get at Fort Carson back in the US. Helicopter gunner Alan Hartmann said that after sustaining a neck injury, along with nightmares from transporting dead bodies, he started using methamphetamines for the physical and mental pain. "I was snorting it, and I was smoking it, and then I was hot railing it, and then I got to the point where I was actually injecting it in my arms," he told ABC.
The army's chief psychiatrist, Col. Elspeth Ritchie, insists that ABC's account of soldiers becoming hooked on drugs as a result of their service in Iraq "has not been my experience. ... In general, our soldiers are not turning to drugs."
However, Paul Sullivan of Veterans for Common Sense told ABC, "The military right now can say whatever they want, but the truth on the ground is that the soldiers are in a lot of pain .. and they're turning to drugs in order to alleviate that."
ABC concluded that not only has the number of soldiers seeking help from the military for drug problems increased, but "the military would rather pretend [it] was not happening."
The full ABC report, "Coming Home: Soldiers and Drugs,'" will be shown Friday evening on 20/20.
This video is from ABC's Good Morning America, broadcast on November 30, 2007.