WASHINGTON: More than 15,000 US military service members have overdosed on illicit drugs in the past five years, and 332 of those cases have resulted in death, the Pentagon has reportedly admitted in response to questions from Congress.
The data was given last week to five US senators, led by Massachusetts Democrats Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, Rolling Stone reported on February 15. The senators had written to Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin last September, demanding information on overdoses in the ranks, after the magazine revealed that as many as 30 US soldiers died from overdoses at Fort Bragg in 2020 and 2021. The base in North Carolina is the headquarters for America’s special forces, among other things.
“The loss of a single service member to a fatal overdose is one loss too many,” Markey said on February 15. “With hundreds of fatal overdoses reported on US military bases, the toll is mounting. We can and must stop America’s overdose crisis.”
Fentanyl accounted for more than half of the military overdose deaths, the Pentagon said. In fact, deaths from the synthetic opioid have more than doubled since 2017, following a similar trajectory with America’s overall drug crisis. The US had nearly 107,000 civilian overdose deaths in 2021, including more than 71,000 linked to fentanyl, according to government data.