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Pills Cited in Mistaken Afghan Bombing

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By DOUG SIMPSON, Associated Press Writer

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. – Two U.S. pilots who mistakenly dropped a bomb that killed four Canadians in Afghanistan (news – web sites) had been issued amphetamines before the mission to stay awake, a defense lawyer argued Tuesday at the opening of a military hearing to determine whether they should be court-martialed.

The Air Force-issued “go pills” may have impaired the pilots’ judgment, said David Beck, lawyer for Maj. William Umbach. He also said the pilots were given antidepressants upon returning from their mission.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
It seems clear that the Air Force, like all of US public education has been mesmerized and is under the spell of "biological" psychiatry. At least Air Force waited until the pilots got safely back to base before giving the antidepressants, rather than order that they be taken just seconds after firing, when it was immediately evident that it was friend, not foe, they had killed. We have a right to know more about Air Force and all armed services policies regarding ordering psychiatric drugs--addictive and otherwise. If Umbach and Schmidt, the fighter pilots were under orders to take amphetamines, higher-ups absolutely must share blame. (See appended, below, word of the psychotic reaction to Adderall, a mix of amphetamine salts, in which Ryan Ehlis murdered his infant daughter but was acquited)]

Umbach and Maj. Harry Schmidt are charged with involuntary manslaughter for dropping the guided bomb near Kandahar, Afghanistan, on April 17. The Air Force has said they failed to make sure there were no allied troops in the area.

Beck and Charles Gittins, Schmidt’s lawyer, have said the fighter pilots were not told Canadian troops were conducting live-fire exercises and believed their F-16s were under attack.

Beck said Tuesday that the Air Force issues amphetamines to help pilots stay awake during long missions.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
Clearly Air Force policy/practice. Who are their psychiatrist advisors regarding this policy? ]

He promised to raise the issue later in the hearing.

“The Air Force has a problem. They have administered `go pills’ to soldiers that the manufacturers have stated affect performance and judgment,” Beck said.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
That do so, measureably, in a high percent of cases]

The proceeding is akin to a grand jury hearing in the civilian justice system. Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, commander of the 8th Air Force based at Barksdale, will decide whether the pilots will be court-martialed for the friendly-fire accident.

The two Illinois National Guard pilots also face charges of aggravated assault and dereliction of duty and could get up to 64 years in military prison if convicted.

The first witness called Tuesday was Canadian infantry Capt. Joseph Jasper, who said he heard a fighter jet as he prepared to direct a tank-stalking exercise. Then the bomb hit nearby.

“Basically we looked at each other and said, `What the hell was that?’” Jasper said.

The bodies of the four soldiers were soon found, and medics treated eight wounded soldiers, he said.

Access to the hearing was blocked for a period because the material was classified, Air Force officials said.

Among the expected witnesses is Col. David Nichols, the pilots’ commander, who warned his superiors months before the accident that communications problems would eventually cause “friendly fire” deaths of allied troops, according to Beck.

Deadly psychotic reaction from Adderall Tue, 26 Oct 1999

Although psychosis as an adverse reaction from stimulants is mentioned
repeatedly as “extremely rare” in this article on a most unfortunate
incident, a 1% rate is mentioned in various sources, with a couple of
studies observing a 4-6% rate.


Slaying Blamed on Drug Reaction

Copyright The Associated Press


BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – Ten days after he began taking a widely used medicine
called Adderall to control his attention deficit Ryan Ehlis slipped into a psychotic fog and killed his infant daughter.
acquitted of murder by a judge who ruled his psychotic state
was an extremely rare side effect of Adderall.

the drug’s manufacturer say that despite the slaying,
Adderall remains a safe and effective drug for controlling attention
deficit-hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

Within days after taking the medicine in January, Ehlis started hearing
voices. He believed God was telling him to leave his body and bring his
daughter with him to save the world, said his lawyer, John Thelen.

His conditioned worsened until, on Jan. 30, Ehlis killed his 5-week-old
daughter, Tara, with a shotgun, then shot himself in the abdomen. He
recovered from the wound and was charged with murder.

psychiatrists testified before a judge that the shootings
happened solely because of a psychotic state caused by the prescription drug.

Judge Debbie Kleven agreed, ruling that Ehlis lacked the capacity to
understand what he was doing.

The drug’s labeling warns that in very rare cirumstances, it can cause
“psychotic episodes at recommended doses.”
this was the most severe case that’s ever
occurred,” said Stefan Antonsson, vice president of marketing for Shire
Richwood Inc., the Florence, Ky., maker of the drug.

Since Adderall was made available on a widespread basis in 1996, the company
has received 10 reports of “general psychotic events” from the drug’s use,
Antonsson said.

More than a million Adderall prescriptions were written in 1997, Antonsson
said. That figure rose to 2.3 million in 1998, and in the first nine months
of this year the number has increased to 2.7 million, he said.

During clinical trials of the drug, Antonsson said, there were no reported
instances of psychotic disorders.

Dr. James Swanson, a professor at the University of California at Irvine who
has studied Adderall, said he was surprised to hear of Ehlis’ violent

“I knew that in high doses this would be a real concern, but not at the
typical doses that are prescribed for clinical treatment,” Swanson said.

Thelen said the drug was prescribed to Ehlis by a psychiatrist, and Ehlis was
taking the prescribed dosage.

As a boy, Ehlis had been diagnosed with ADHD and had taken Ritalin.
In one of 10 extreme reactions to Adderall known by the company, Antonsson
described how a 7-year-old boy became aggressive and defiant. When the boy
quit using the drug, he improved, Antonsson said.

Ehlis is taking no medication for his ADHD, his lawyer said.


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