(CNN) -- Eight American soldiers died of overdoses
involving heroin, morphine or other opiates during deployments in
Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, according to U.S. Army investigative
The overdoses were
revealed in documents detailing how the Army investigated a total of 56
soldiers, including the eight who fell victim to overdoses, on suspicion
of possessing, using or distributing heroin and other opiates.
At the same time, heroin
use apparently is on the rise in the Army overall, as military
statistics show that the number of soldiers testing positive for heroin
has grown from 10 instances in fiscal year 2002 to 116 in fiscal year
Army officials didn't
respond to repeated requests for comment on Saturday. But records from
the service's Criminal Investigation Command, obtained by the
conservative legal group Judicial Watch, provided glimpses into how
soldiers bought drugs from Afghan juveniles, an Afghan interpreter and
in one case, an employee of a Defense Department contractor, who was
The drug use is occurring
in a country that is estimated to supply more than 90% of the world's
opium, and the Taliban insurgency is believed to be stockpiling the drug
to finance their activities, according to a 2009 U.N. study. While the
records show some soldiers using heroin, much of the opiate abuse by
U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan involves prescription drugs such Percocet,
the Army documents show.
Judicial Watch obtained
the documents under the Freedom of Information of Act and provided them
to CNN. Spokesman Col. Gary Kolb of the International Security
Assistance Force, the NATO-led command in Afghanistan, verified the
documents to CNN on Saturday.
One fatal overdose
occurred in June 2010 at Forward Operating Base Blessing, after a
soldier asked another soldier to buy black tar opium from a local Afghan
outside the base's entry control point. The first soldier died after
consuming the opium like chewing tobacco and smoking pieces of it in a
cigarette, the documents show.
The reports even show
soldier lingo for the drug -- calling it "Afghani dip" in one case where
three soldiers were accused of using the opiate, the Army investigative
The United States has
89,000 troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. death toll since the September
11, 2001, attacks that triggered the war has risen to more than 1,850,
including 82 this year, according to the U.S. Department of Defense and
U.S. Central Command.
Tom Fitton, president of
Judicial Watch, said his group was interested in soldiers' drug use
partly because the risk was present during the Vietnam War.
"You never want to see
news of soldiers dying of drug use in Afghanistan," Fitton said. "Our
concern is, will the military treat this as the problem that it is, and
are the families of the soldiers aware of the added risk in this
"There is a dotted line
between the uses. Prescription abuse can easily veer into heroin drug
use," Fitton added. "Afghanistan is the capital of this opiate
production and the temptation is great there and the opportunity for
drug use all the more."
The group is concerned
that "there hasn't been enough public discussion, and we would encourage
the leadership to discuss or talk about this issue more openly," Fitton
In one case, a soldier
bought heroin and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax from five "local national
juveniles at multiple locations on Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan, and
consumed them," one report states. Soldiers also distributed heroin,
Percocet and other drugs among themselves, according to the reports.
Another soldier fatally
overdosed in December 2010 after taking several drugs, including
morphine and codeine, though the drugs were not prescribed for him, the
Army documents show.
One female soldier broke
into the Brigade Medical Supply Office at Forward Operating Base Shank
and stole expired prescription narcotics including morphine, Percocet,
Valium, fentanyl and lorazepam, the documents show.
reports show soldiers using other drugs, including steroids and
marijuana, and even hashish that was sold to U.S. servicemen by the
Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police personnel, the reports
Tags: afghanistan, us, soldiers, drug, addict, opium, heroin, usa, isaf, nato
Location: Afghanistan (load item map)
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