June 3rd, 2010
01:15 PM ET

Australian case sparks look at drug use among troops

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.

Read the full story from Australia's ABC News

Filed under: Drug trade • Troops
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Sage

    it's ok for us to sit here and judge someone whose at war. Ok, so he may have asked to go back for the third time, but remember, this man is doing something that none of us are, he is fighting so that WE can have the freedom we do.
    I am an Australian and the facts as I know are still quite unclear. We as a country are now mourning 2 soldiers who died at war a few days ago giving us freedom as I said above, god knows what this poor bugger has endured.
    I can't even imagine what this man has gone through. I hope also he gets all the help, love and support he needs.
    To those who judge, next time you feel the need to bag a soldier, try for a moment to contemplate how it would actually be out there. I can almost bet I'd know where you would rather be ...
    And one more thing, how many doctors, nurses, lawyers are out there doing their job while on drugs? A lot more then we know, and the only reason it is being brought to everyone's attention is because he was found out ... We'd be totally ignorant if we were to say there is NO drugs among troops. Drugs are everywhere and taken by every occupation on the planet pretty much. I am not surprised this is happening.

    June 9, 2010 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  2. krich73

    I'm surprised people are not aware of this issue. Afghanistan is where heroin (poppy) originates from as well as highly potent marijuana (kush-indica). The country of Afghanistan has a huge problem with addiction due to the fact drugs are plentiful. I hope this guy gets the help he needs. To those that criticize and don't understand what's going on put yourself in these soldiers shoes surrounding yourself w/ death, uncomfortable conditions, as well as the fact the war is becoming more unpopular with the masses.

    June 8, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bob searcy

    if you send me to that vicinity i will smoke hash. the military has not squelched drug use, they just use " random " drug testing to get rid of slackers. the coverup is at the batallion level.

    June 8, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Azm

    I will tell you the full story. Yes, they use drugs. ask from thier translators they know well.

    June 8, 2010 at 3:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Jerry

      Well obviously, that is what the story is about. What isn't being told is the level of drug addiction in the general population, men women and children.

      June 8, 2010 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  5. Rob from Australia

    The bulk of Australian troops in Afghanistan are Special Forces soldiers who volunteer for SF duty. Considering Australia has had troops deployed in Afghanistan for eight years, and the average career of a SF soldier is five years, you can be assured he knew what he volunteered for. That's why this soldier was on his third tour – he probably asked for it. Australian military service is entirely voluntary and at any time, a member may elect to revoke their 'Statement of Availability for Deployment'. Doing so may have you painting rocks in a carpark, or even answering to your CO why you should not be discharged, but it's always an option. For this soldier, his six-month tour will earn him around $80,000AUD in addition to his military salary – so three tours will buy him quite a nice house. The issue Australia faces, along with the US and most other Western nations – is soldiering has become a career of last resort for the under-educated, lowest socio-economic groups. Compared against their peers, the 18-25 age bracket in the military is considerably "cleaner" than the neighbourhoods most of them came from. You don't see world headlines when some poor kid from the inner city has an OD.

    June 6, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jennifer in California

    Well stated, Veteran Dave. However, there can be no distinction between battles here and there....this defies the laws of physics! Lest I cause a furor, I will be non-specific about the country in question here: I remember when (a few decades back) deals were made which traded arms and U.S. military presence for the import of heroin into the U.S.. This stuff still goes on and this brings the war home. The cost of addiction and drug trade is astronomical, in all of the ways defined by Public Health Analysts (the formulas for estimating the costs). To respect the military will mean understanding and respecting what will happen with them HERE, when they come home. I can go to the corner market and find 6-7 Vietnam Vets begging for money right now...they are there....waiting for their new commrades.

    June 6, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Gypsy King

    Wow, opiates found in Afghanistan. Next we'll be reading about C4 found in Iraq.

    June 6, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Veteran Dave

    When a person starts self-medicating themselves to fight off PTSD they are sick and need medical treatment. They are a casualty of war and deserve the same recognition as a person with a bullet through the arm. They have been injured by the war zone and every single person deals with it in their own way. Funny, how some of our best fighters are strung out so bad they don't care about the bullets wizzing by when a friend has been hit and needs their help, they already gave up their lives but want to save a buddy. Pray for them, they still have a terrible fight when they get home, addiction is no laughing matter. We as patriots should give nothing short of full and complete respect for the military keeping the battles there and not here.

    June 6, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Azwar Ikram

    I am from Pakistan and you just do not know what sort of Brains these Idiots have they are taught to kill anyone that does not agree to there stupid thinking.
    But i do agree on one thing you all guys should stay there and come out only when you have finished this Evil.

    June 6, 2010 at 7:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Roy

      "But i do agree on one thing you all guys should stay there and come out only when you have finished this Evil" More like the longer you stay the less chance of you coming out. Remember Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires!!!

      June 10, 2010 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
  10. Azwar Ikram

    Hi Gary you guys are not fighting Islam, the idiot you are fighting are not Muslims they are gang of very well organised Thugs, who are using the name only they have there own agenda.
    I do feel sorry for the man he should not have been sent there for the 3rd time it is too much , i am not in the army but i do know what they go through.

    June 6, 2010 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Sikander Mehdi

      Azwar Ikram, you seem like a muslim to me and you say you are from Pakistan. Are you prepared for death and the life of the grave ? Why are you spewing hate for your muslim brothers. Reply to me at smehdi@gmail.com

      June 9, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roy

      IKram is a jew using a Muslim name!!!

      June 10, 2010 at 8:57 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jennifer in California

    Hello...anyone remember Vietnam? Many came back from that war addicted to drugs. NOW, we have troops in a country that is the MOST prolific producer of opium ever to be seen. Did you really expect that there would not be casualties to the addiction process? By the way Matthew, I don't suppose you know any OTHER kinds of "trained professionals with dangerous jobs" who have a drug problem? I want to move to your planet, where is it? This is a much more complex issue than your "Just say NO" stance supports. For every guy who is removed with a drug problem, I'll bet 2 will come back with a life-long habit.

    June 6, 2010 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  12. Gary Johndro

    Doesn't this fool realize that we're at war with Islam and have an empire to build?What's wrong with him,I wonder???

    June 5, 2010 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Matthew in Wisconsin

    Sorry, but I’d have to disagree with the sympathizers. We DO NOT need to know all of the facts. No judgment call on the man even necessary. These men are trained professionals. They have a difficult and dangerous job to do. If a soldier is turning to drugs then he is NOT doing his job. Get him out of Afghanistan immediately. He is a danger to himself and all of his comrades. Treat his addiction back in the States or in Australia as the case may be. Remove him from combat duty.

    June 5, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Eric

    This is the same problem that the Russian's encountered in Afghanistan. We are just not provided the information in regards to US soldiers. The herion originates in this area, expect more of these stories if they are released.

    June 5, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. VietNamVet

    Some said something about have someone be deployed for a third time. That shouldn't be allowed. That just seems to me to be asking for trouble for the troops. We don't know the pressures these men and women are facing daily. But if you have any military experience you know that being in a situation like that, being far from your loved ones makes everyone a little crazy at times. It sounds like there wasn't anyone there to help him so he turned to drugs. Don't judge the guy to harshly.

    June 5, 2010 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  16. proudofthe troops

    I read that he had just come back from a mission in which he had saved the life of a seriously injured mate. These guys see things happening that keyboard warriors are lucky never to experience. So please, stop judging people.

    June 5, 2010 at 6:42 am | Report abuse |
  17. am

    @ TLS

    ...& how can we sit in judgment when we never have the full story?

    June 4, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  18. TLS

    Captain Jones,
    I'm sure you meant to say, "Australia has no conscription." This man was from an Australian Defense Forces Unit. I'm willing to bet no one who has posted on this forum knows anything about Australia's military, missions, training or field situations. It's always so easy to just sit back and judge people...clearly there is much more to this story than we've been told.

    June 4, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Captain Jones

    Test them for drugs. If they're clean, kick them out! Let them do all the dope they want.

    June 4, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Captain Jones

    BS! Last time I checked, there was no draft in the United States. These soldiers volunteered for the job, put their names on the dotted line, raised their hand and took an oath. If you can't stand the heat, don't jump into the fire. I have no sympathy. They made their choice. Nobody twisted their arms to sign up. Bring back the draft!!!! That would really give these cry-babies something to bawl about.

    June 4, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  21. theTRUEvoice

    @mark- dude you need to be more sympathetic towards these shoulders who live in such harsch conditions and face all these near death experiences without any of their personal interest involved...they are looking after us..we should be looking after them...be kind and grateful dude...

    June 4, 2010 at 7:19 am | Report abuse |
  22. mark

    Rubbish.... what a load of crap... He is in a supposed elite unit, he should behave as such. The food is great, the accomodation great, he has not watched buddies on mass die before his eyes... i find this insulting. If he was worth his salt he would not have used the stuff in the first place... He is responsible. Stop blaming everyone/everything else. It was not the establishment or the system he did it! thats that, and know he is where he is.

    June 4, 2010 at 5:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Tina

      So you know him personally??? Walk a mile in his shoes and the talk.

      June 4, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark Graham

      I aggree with Mark, he knows exactly were he is and what he is there for.

      June 5, 2010 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Daniel-2

      Maybe he's starting to wise up over this obscene war realize that he's no more than a tool of the right-wing thugs in Canberra,Australia.

      June 5, 2010 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
      • Jerry

        Daniel/Daniel-2/Onesmallvoice. Well done! you got the capital of Australia right, Anabel...

        June 6, 2010 at 6:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Guy Kimble

      Sir, You should be ashamed! The man has been through a war zone. I'm not saying he's right but I could see how he could end up using them. I'm not sur if you have served but if you have you would know that it's not a fun place to be. The American Guy!

      June 6, 2010 at 5:58 am | Report abuse |
    • socalcouple

      Thank you for stating this cold, hard truth. The sad fact is that everybody seems to be getting on the "Who's to blame for this one..." band wagon. I hope to see more comments like your about other life aspects. Sadly, the U.S. government is leading the world down that path with it's bailout mentality and emphasis on "Who's to blame", rather than "Accidents and poor judgement happen, but let's focus on the solutions". Let's plead with the media to start reporting that! Or atleast report stories where people DO take responsibility for their mistakes.

      June 6, 2010 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Mike

    Three deployments is to much for any soldier. The military needs to keep this in mind when they deploy a soldier this many times to Afghanistan. I hope this soldier and his family will be OK. My prayers go out to him and his family.

    June 3, 2010 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • gcodi

      this druggie and the rest of the peanut gallery are occupiers ,dont thrill yourself into believing these are heroes ,there is site to go to if you want to make jokes

      June 8, 2010 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
      • Sikander Mehdi

        I agree with gcodi. What America is fighting against is Islam and is opressing a free nation. Islam is against drugs, nudity, self indulgunce, opression, injustice, Islam means living life by the will of Allah (swt) and America and most of Americans like to live by their own will. This is the major difference. Taliban does not have advanced weapons but have get the help of Allah(swt). If Allah(swt) wills all the American army will be wiped out within a nano second but Allah(swt) wants to test his creation and give them the benefits in the afterlife. This is my opinion and Allah (swt) knows best. If anyone wants to know about Islam or has any questions and want to be succssful in this life and afterlife,e -mail me at smehdi@gmail.com... this is my invitation to all non-muslims towards Islam. The truth, the peace and the success.

        June 9, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |