Long, Repeated Tours In Iraq, Afghanistan Taking Mental Toll On Soldiers
...Jesus Bocanegra, a 24-year-old former Army sergeant, says he is haunted by countless shots he fired at Iraqis while serving as an infantry scout in Tikrit in 2003-04. The McAllen, Texas-native says he lost track of how many innocent civilians he killed.
"How the hell was I capable of that?" he says now.
Back home and plagued with anxiety attacks, he said he tried to close himself off from the world by drinking to the point of passing out. He progressed to marijuana use and then cocaine.
"The only way to sustain yourself day-to-day is to keep yourself drugged up," he said. But "it made it worse."
Eventually, he stopped taking drugs. But he said it took nearly two years for him to get an appointment at the closest veterans hospital, a four-hour drive away, because it was overbooked. He was diagnosed with PTSD and given pills, but with no VA therapists in the area he sought help from a group called Vets for Vets....
...Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found that nearly four in five service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who may have been at risk for PTSD were not referred for further mental health evaluation. The Pentagon was unable to explain to the GAO why some were not referred for care.
Medical experts say mental health and substance abuse problems are intertwined...
Long, Repeated Tours In Iraq, Afghanistan Taking Mental Toll On Soldiers - Health Site