Illegal drugs may have been the cause of an Australian soldier's illness last week, according to the Australian Department of Defense. The military said Thursday it had launched an investigation, including drug testing for others in the soldier's unit.
“As the investigation is ongoing, no findings are yet available, however, a bottle of pills and, separately, white powder – thought to be an opiate – were found in the soldier’s room,” Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, chief of the Australian Defense Force, said in a prepared statement.
The soldier, in his third deployment to Afghanistan, was found unconscious in his room at Tarin Kowt in southern Afghanistan last Friday. He remains in serious condition at a military hospital in Germany.
In a report from Australia's ABC News, a CNN affiliate, addiction experts say a soldier overdosing on drugs in Afghanistan - the world's leading opium producer - shouldn't be a surprise.
Dr. Alex Wodak, director of the Alcohol and Drug Service at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, Australia, told ABC that many soldiers turn to drugs to cope with life in a war zone.
"Life has very few pleasures; you're very uncomfortable, it's either very hot or very cold, the food's pretty awful, the ever-present smell of death and you see some of your closest buddies die before your eyes. ... So life is really unbearable, and heroin's cheap."
Drug use was a major problem for Soviet troops in Afghanistan during the 1980s, and the U.S. military is also facing an increase in addiction, Wodak said.