Comment of the Day: Voicing Concerns about Military's Continued Use of Lariam

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Elspeth Ritchie
On Tuesday Seattle Weekly's Nina Shapiro crafted a post about former top military psychiatrist and current chief clinical officer for the District of Columbia's mental health department Elspeth Ritchie and her questions about the military's continued use of the anti-malarial drug Lariam. These questions are especially pertinent in the wake of the recent Afghan massacre allegedly carried out by Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.

As Shapiro noted, Ritchie has no proof that Bales was given Lariam (known generically as mefloquine), but, as she initially told Seattle Weekly in late March, she suspects that Bales had a psychotic episode given how out of character the massacre seemed to be. And Lariam, Ritchie says, has been associated with psychotic symptoms, including hallucinations, which might have led Bales to believe he was shooting enemy combatants rather than women and children.

Commenter Bonnie Toews provides some background, urging the U.S. military to pursue safer alternatives when it comes to battling malaria.

The problem has always been that no one understood how the neurotoxicity worked or that it even existed until recent years because the U.S. Army originally developed it to combat the mass number of military casualties due to malaria. To them the risk was worth it. To those who suffered the adverse effects, the risk was never worth it because perfectly healthy people, civilians as well as soldiers, have had their lives ruined after taking even the first dose of this drug. In the early 90s, Canada's Airborne were disbanded because of peacekeepers' violent behavior toward the local Somali villagers -- included torture and murder -- only to find that they were issued double the recommended dosage in an experiment that was never documented nor tracked until CTV exposed the agreement between Health Canada, Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces in 1997. There are safer alternatives albeit more expensive and a hassle to administrate. All our military deserve the best care, NOT what is most expedient!

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