Which War Am I In? DEA Meth Offensive Continues as US Pilots in Afghanistan Gobble Speed 8/9/02

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In one of America's current great crusades, the war on drugs, amphetamines and their users are key enemies. In our other great crusade, the war on terrorism, amphetamines are our friends. DEA head Asa Hutchinson is in the middle of a month's long, 30-state "Meth Tour 2002," where he regularly portrays amphetamines as a substance akin to a radioactive material -- something inherently dangerous and deadly -- and stumps for ever more laws and ever more funding to fight the "meth menace."

But even as Hutchinson is mounting the stump to rail against the evils of speed, US fighter pilots are tweaking their brains out in the skies over Afghanistan -- and you better believe you didn't read about it in the US press. No, it was the Canadians, understandably upset after those American fighter pilots blasted four Canadian soldiers to smithereens back in April. In an August 1st story, the Toronto Star reported the details on amphetamine use in the US Air Force.

US fighter pilots, who have been involved in at least 10 other "friendly fire" or mistaken attack incidents, are regularly given the amphetamine Dexedrine (or "go-pills," as the pilots call them) to fly longer hours, the Star reported. When they return from their missions, Air Force doctors give them sedatives, such as Ambien (zolpidem) and Restoril (temazepam). The pilots call these "no-go pills," the Star reported. And when it's time to roll again, it's time for more "go pills."

The Star obtained a copy of a document produced by the Top Gun fighter school and the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory in Pensacola, FL, that outlines the drugs pilots are given and how they are administered. According to the document, "Performance Maintenance During Continuous Flight Operations," the pilots are given Dexedrine in 10 milligram doses and are allowed to carry their own supplies with them in the cockpit.

An Air Force spokeswoman, Betty Ann Mauger, confirmed to the Star that the Air Force is feeding speed to its pilots. "When fatigue could be expected to degrade air crew performance, they are given Dexedrine in 10 milligram doses," she said.

It is unclear if Harry Schmidt, the Illinois Air National Guard pilot who fired the missile that killed the Canadian soldiers, was on speed, but the thought certainly occurred to defense analyst John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org, a Washington, DC, defense think-tank. "Better bombing through chemistry," Pike told the Star. "This was certainly one of my first thoughts after the Canadian friendly fire incident. The initial depiction made it seem as if the pilot was behaving in an unusually aggressive fashion."

Schmidt's lawyer, Charles Gittins, told the Star he wasn't sure if Schmidt was taking Dexedrine the night of the incident. "I don't know the answer," he said. "I've never asked my pilot if he was medicated, but it is quite common. I'll check with him," Gittins told the Star.

While tweaked-out fighter pilots may not make the news in the US, the use of amphetamines in the US military has a long if not glorious history. "I don't think anyone even knows about this," Pike told the Star. "The aviation community and the Air Force community certainly don't like to talk about so-called 'performance enhancing' drugs."

But that doesn't mean the armed forces don't make liberal use of them. According to the Top Gun document obtained by the Star, an anonymous survey of Desert Storm fighter pilots found that 60% used Dexedrine, with that figure climbing to 95% among the most active units. And retired Col. Richard Graham of Plano, TX, who logged over 200 combat missions in Vietnam, told the Star that Dexedrine use was "routine" among pilots in that war.

The Star also reported that pilots are coerced into using amphetamines. Pilots are tested for drug tolerance, then asked to sign a consent form. "It has been explained to me and I understand that the US FDA had not approved the use of Dexedrine to manage fatigue... and I further understand that the decision to take the medication is mine alone." But later on in the same consent form, pilots are informed that there are serious consequences to not taking the drug. "Should I choose not to take it under circumstances where its use appears indicated... my commander, upon advice of the flight surgeon, may determine whether or not I should be considered unfit to fly a mission."

Let's see if we can get this straight: In one war, American fighting men and women are punished for not taking amphetamines, while in another holy war, American citizens are imprisoned for taking amphetamines. Hutchinson and his boys are busy kicking down doors looking for meth labs across the land, but don't hold your breath waiting for the DEA to declare war on the Air Force tweakers. Apparently, some amphetamines are more equal than others.

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Issue #249, 8/9/02 Nevada Marijuana Initiative Endorsed by State's Largest Police Group | DC Board of Elections Rejects Medical Marijuana Petitions -- Admits One of Seven Valid Signatures Ignored but Refuses to Correct Error | Democratic Governor Candidate Calls for Repeal of NY Rockefeller Laws | Switzerland Defends Cannabis Decrim, Tells UN Narcocrats to Buzz Off | Which War Am I In? DEA Meth Offensive Continues as US Pilots in Afghanistan Gobble Speed | Libertarian Party Launches TV Ad Campaign Targeting Rep. Bob Barr on Medical Marijuana | Drug Czar Picks Beer-Promoting NASCAR Hot Rodder to Carry Anti-Drug Message | School Anti-Drug Programs Get Failing Grade, Study Says | Drug Dog Terrorizes Native American Kindergartners in South Dakota, Lawsuit Filed | Newsbrief: South Dakota Lakota Successfully Harvest Hemp Crop | Newsbrief: Peru Backs Off on Coca Eradication, Again | Newsbrief: Radical Party Moscow Activists Go to Trial for Marijuana Legalization Rally -- Free Speech at Heart of Case | Newsbrief: Federal Judge Deems Utah Asset Forfeiture Initiative Constitutional | Newsbrief: Canadian NAFTA Suit Over Hemp Restrictions Enters Arbitration | Newsbrief: More than One Million in Drug Treatment in US, SAMHSA Says | Newsbrief: Budget Woes Close Detox, Treatment Facilities in NC, Iowa | Newsbrief: Stiffer Ecstasy Penalties Would Hit Penn State University | Newsbrief: Study Finds THC-like Chemicals Useful for Certain Disorders | Newsbrief: Archeological Evidence of Bronze Age Drug Trade | Web Scan: Narco News, Nature, Cato | Legislative Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision | The Reformer's Calendar

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