Jump to content
Washington Football Team Logo

OT-The few, the proud, the stoned


Recommended Posts

Not sure if anyone has heard about this story. Just curious about what you guys think about drugs in the military. I know there are a few military guys that frequent the board.

Does this problem signify a deeper problem within the military? Or is it just the press overblowing a problem that happens in every corporation in America?

This was published in the Toronto Star July 28, 2002.

The few, the proud, the stoned

By William Walker


JACKSONVILLE, N.C. ALL Steven Davis wanted was to be one of the few, the proud, the brave. A United States Marine.

Instead, he sits in a prison cell behind a tall barbed-wire fence here at the Camp Lejeune U.S. Marine Corps base, just another statistic in a drug problem that some senior officers fear is spiralling out of control.

Rampant drug use is the latest black eye for a mighty American military still reeling from a series of "friendly fire" accidents in the Afghan war, including the notorious incident in which a reserve F-16 pilot bombed Canadian troops on night-training exercises near Kandahar, killing four soldiers and wounding eight.

New disclosures also reveal that more than 400 Afghan civilians were killed in 11 bombings ordered by U.S. commanders who were relying on bad information from local Afghan warlords.

Clearly, the Pentagon doesn't want to see the military's image further sullied at a time when the nation is at war.

There long have been unconfirmed rumours of amphetamine use by U.S. soldiers, including those on active duty. But now it's a fact: The drug of choice among young soldiers is an amphetamine known as Ecstasy.

Technically called methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), the drug essentially combines the energy of an amphetamine with the mind-altering qualities of LSD.

Davis, 24, has plenty of time to think about his dream that died. In the prime of his life, both physically and mentally, he faces 10 years in prison for using and dealing Ecstasy.

But in some ways, he is lucky.

His original sentence was 18 years, which would have meant being shipped to Leavenworth, a hard-time military prison in Kansas. But his term was cut to 10 years after he co-operated with his superior officers and agreed to appear in two videos to be shown as warnings to other Marines and sailors.

Davis is barred from giving media interviews. His comments in this article are as he delivered them on the videos, obtained from Star sources.

"I wouldn't wish this on anyone," he says, facing the video camera. "Not on anyone. You wake up every day looking out through bars. I can't leave. I can't go see my family.

"I just look out through these bars."

Davis was one of 84 military personnel — three of them sailors, the rest Marines — arrested in a two-year undercover investigation known as Operation Xterminator.

All but two of those charged were convicted in courts martial, with sentences ranging from three months to 19 years.

Ninety-nine civilians were also arrested and are to be tried in civilian courts.

The probe, conducted by agents of the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS), hauled in an estimated $1.4 million (all figures U.S.) worth of amphetamines and other drugs.

The results of Operation Xterminator, said to be the biggest of its kind in U.S. military history, were announced on June 2. It's strict military policy not to announce the names of personnel charged or convicted.

Officials admit some of the drug use took place on the base, but none of the seized drugs, which included marijuana and LSD, were manufactured on base.

Maj. Steve Cox points out that 82 convictions represent a tiny fraction of the 60,000 military personnel who serve on the giant 300-square kilometre base that stretches along North Carolina's Atlantic coastline.

But with the ink barely dry on Operation Xterminator, another half-dozen of the camp's young Marines — the Leatherneck elite of America's fighting forces — have been charged with taking, possessing or distributing Ecstasy.

"We here at the NCIS are concerned about the increased use of Ecstasy and other club drugs by both sailors and Marines," says director David Brant, who has joined forces with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to tackle the military's drug problem.

Adds NCIS special agent Richard Warmack: "We have seen a tremendous growth in the number of Ecstasy-related investigations and operations that we've conducted."

A Defence Department official in Ottawa says the Canadian military has a "zero tolerance" policy on drug use, including Ecstasy, but hasn't launched any investigations of the magnitude of Operation Xterminator.

Senior officers worry that the drug's "hangover" effect — it can leave users exhausted the day after partying until the wee hours — could jeopardize a soldier's ability to function on the job.

There is also concern in military circles over the drug's powerful hallucinogenic effects.

Regular users often report "flashbacks," much like the hallucinations experienced by LSD users.

Frequent users also suffer increased muscle tension, tremors and blurred vision.

"Compromising command readiness cannot be tolerated and will not be tolerated," says the Marine Corps inspector-general, Brig. Gen. Timothy Ghormley.

"It comes down to a safety issue. Taking Ecstasy removes you from that responsibility and it's a responsibility a soldier cannot relinquish or abdicate. They come to work, they're depressed, they're not able to give 100 per cent to their duties and contemporaries have to haul the load for them.

"Imagine a Marine who is despondent after a long weekend of Ecstasy use and is not paying attention to what he is doing. If you have that Marine working next to you on the ground, he could injure you or worse yet, he could kill you."

Says Vice-Admiral Michael Haskins, the navy's inspector-general: "These drugs have a direct impact on members of the navy and Marines being able to perform their jobs at 100 per cent. It's important that people understand that the business we're in, either as a daily routine or on dangerous operational assignments, requires that everybody be at their peak condition."

An increasing number of military personnel have also been found using the club drug Ketamine, popularly known as "Special K." It's an animal tranquilizer with the physical effects of PCP and visual effects of LSD.

Back on the video monitor, Davis is remembering how his parents in Alabama were so proud of him when he graduated from Camp Lejeune boot camp.

"That was probably the proudest day of my father's life, watching me graduate," Davis says.

Near the top of his class, he won a prestigious post with the Presidential Support Program, which provides security at Camp David, the presidential retreat near Washington, D.C., in the mountains of Maryland.

"Loved it. Loved everything about it," Davis says of his experience at Camp David, where President George W. Bush often hosts visiting heads of state or spends weekends strategizing with his National Security Council advisers.

After running afoul of his strict commanders, Davis was transferred back to Washington and eventually back to Camp Lejeune, which is serviced by the tattoo parlours, "military cut" barber shops, dry cleaners, discount furniture outlets and liquor stores of drowsy little Jacksonville.

Davis began going out often to dance clubs in Wilmington, N.C., a vibrant city about 60 kilometres down the coast, to drown his sorrows. One night, at a Wilmington rave club called Dot Comm (whose name has since been changed to Club Neo'z), he took Ecstasy.

"I took it for the first time and took three (pills) and I was in shock at what it made me feel like," Davis recalls.

"The main thing I thought after that night was that I just spent $75 on these tiny little pills and I would do it again. I thought, `Where do you get this stuff?'"

Davis soon discovered eager buyers at Dot Comm for Ecstasy pills, people willing to pay $25 to $40 per pill. He started buying in bulk, getting the pills at a discount of as low as $10 each.

"In my mind then, you know, the money outweighed the risk and the damage I was doing," he says. "I mean, you've got 5,000 people in a club and 4,000 of them are on the drug."

Then, the hammer came down.

Davis was sitting in his pickup truck one day with a fellow Marine to whom he'd been selling Ecstasy for more than a year. He handed the man a bag of pills and the man handed him a wad of money. Just as Davis started counting it, he noticed a flurry of movement outside the truck.

Five military police officers were pointing .45-calibre pistols at him and yelling for him to get out with his hands in the air.

"I can't even explain that feeling," Davis says, shaking his head at the memory. They searched his apartment and found more than 900 Ecstasy pills and approximately $10,000 in cash.

Although he'd decided to plead guilty and was offered the services of a military lawyer, Davis hired an experienced civilian attorney — Richard McNeil, a retired officer who has been defending Camp Lejeune personnel on various charges, from spousal abuse to murder, for 21 years.

"There has always been a certain number of Marines who use drugs, which is something the people who run the Marines don't want to talk about," says McNeil, adding that Davis was a "good kid" with an impeccable background.

McNeil suspects that Davis would have been given 12 to 18 months by a state or federal court, in which an accused's prior record is considered in sentencing.

But the military does not consider prior conduct when it convenes a court martial and its sentencing structure is much tougher than a civilian court's.

"Just until about 18 months ago," McNeil says, "all we saw were cocaine or marijuana cases. But now the drug of choice is Ecstasy. It has a shorter lifespan in the human system and so it's more difficult to be drug-tested for."

Unlike marijuana or cocaine, which leave trace amounts in a person's system for days after use, Ecstasy metabolizes so quickly that it's nearly impossible to detect in drug tests. Various U.S. and Canadian laboratories are trying to develop an effective screening test for the drug.

"This isn't going away," McNeil warns. "It's amazing how Ecstasy use quickly escalates. There's virtually no one who uses it who doesn't end up selling it. When they buy in larger quantities, they get it cheaper, and it's very popular to sell in these rave and dance clubs where young Marines hang out and try to meet women.

"And frankly, my clients who are Marines have admitted to me that after they've been selling it a while, they begin to enjoy the money."

Davis says he knows his military career is over and his future uncertain. But what he regrets most is what he has done to his parents, who showed their support by attending his court martial.

"Watching your mother and dad cry is a really hard thing to do," he says. "Knowing that you caused that pain for them is one of the worst feelings you can ever imagine.

"I feel like I completely let my family down. I mean, that's more punishment than being locked up 10 years and everything."


Link to comment
Share on other sites

That commercial they're talking about is played over and over on AFN.Drug use, at least from what I've seen, usually happens in cycles in the service.

It's usually junior guys(not always) with no families who get caught up in the same night life as the normal person where drugs are common.The cycles usually doesn't last long. The Skipper will catch word from somewhere,issue random tests or command sweeps and after watching people get busted the usage usually slows down untill the next group comes along and tries to beat the system.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is it just me or does the beginning of this article seem to suggest that drugs are a factor in the bombing mistakes in Afganistan? I know it didn't SAY that, but using the term "rampant drug use" in the same sentence as a detailed description of a friendly-fire incident can't help but link those two things in readers' minds. I had to go back and re-read to make sure the author wasn't reporting that drugs played a role.

Why would anyone be surprised that there are drugs in the military? There are drugs everywhere ... corporations, schools, sports ... I wouldn't think the military would be any different. You get that many people together in any type of grouping and drugs will emerge eventually.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would be worried that the mental and physical stresses of being a military man or women would make them more likely to indulge in drugs from Marijuana to ecstasy to alcohol. Ive never been in the military so I would never presume to assume I could ever understand what it is to be a soldier. I can imagine though the daily physical grind and strict regimentation may be too much for some people. Then the pressures of protecting your country during war time. Also, and i hope this wont offend anyone, but the average non-officer military man is not likely to have come from the best upbringing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If they would legalize marijuana and make it available for use instead of alcohol it might solve some of these drug problems with xtc and lsd. I know lots of people in the army and such that would love to be able to smoke pot but take lsd and xtc instead because of testing. They don't like to drink but like to have fun and so they do their thing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was in the Air Force for 5 yrs and it is VERY common. My room mate got busted for smoking hash at a local hangout off base in Italy. He didn't even know if it was real hash because he found it on the ground!! Smart huh? He also smoked in around a bunch of military police that were off duty and hanging out there as well. That's how he got busted. Someone narked and told OSI. I know he also did Ecstasy as well. Needless to say he wasn't too bright of a person. Young and stupid from a small town will get you in trouble most of the time.

Also, I knew a large majority of the people that lived in my dorm(250 people) and I'd say about 50 did drugs while in the military. Most were once in awhile types. Usually on leave back home but there were about 10 that did it a lot at clubs off base.

I'm sure the rates are a lot higher in the other branches of the Military because their standards for enlistment are a lot lower then the Air Force's. Esp the Navy...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sometimes I think that if everybody would just get stoned, and spin some Bob Marley, maybe we wouldn't need militaries at all.

But then the Cheetos and Moon Pies run out, and I'm ready to kill someone.

Go figure.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Very good point.

Wildbill, I know what i said about enlisted men might sound really bad but im trying to be realistic here. I said about half came from not the greatest upbringings. But for many people the military is a steady pay check. It has always meant that ever since professional armies were formed.

I did not mean to imply college education, going to officer academy or wealth for that matters means one has had a better upbringing then the other.

However im sure a good sociologist could easily point out that in the lower classes there are higher instances of alcohol and drug abuse then in other classes. The statistics would most likely also point out that there are higher incidents of physical abuse and higher tendency to witness violent acts. Compared to a middle or upper class upbrining this would not in my opinion be as stable an uprbringing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Romo sits to pee,I don't neccessarily agree with what you're saying, but I can see where you're coming from. Sometimes I think there is too much emphasis on how someone is brought up and it usually turns out to be some sort of excuse when people get into trouble.I've just met too many people in the service who may have came from troubled backrounds that don't do drugs.So IMO it's not fair to group the two in the same category.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


I would agree that in many ways military service is good for people that come from troubled backgrounds. It gives them structure and discipline. Many people thrive in this environment. But you cant tell me that some people join the military without really knowing what they are getting into.

If someone is going to their respective military academy then they are likely going to know what they getting into by the time they graduate. The ones not suited for the military would be weeded out. However a non-officer dosnt have the 3-4 years of military college to wash out. Also a non-officer from lower classes would likely not have the job prospects of someone who was accepted to a military college. It is likely that someone who washes out of a military college just goes to another college. If an enlisted man washes out then they would be facing minimum wage jobs for the most part.

Ofcourse this does not mean that an enlisted person is more likely to get stoned then an officer. I think we got a bit off topic here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah we got off topic. But that's ok,its your thread.:laugh:

You brought up a point about how some people thrive in the military. I can agree with that, and in most cases they thrive because what they did prior to service doesn't matter. It's up to you and you alone to succeed. Therefore, people aren't labeled in the same manner as in the civilian world. Thats why I didn't agree with your first statement.Its difficult to label people if you don't have anything to judge them by.

:high: AAAAAAAAAAAAh forget it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think in many ways the idea about succeding despite your past applies to everyone. Some people can never escape their childhood/upbringing, whether its a inner-city ghetto or a sheltered life in Connecticut.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This was just in the paper today. Another article by the same author along the same lines. This stuff is making pretty big news in Canada because of the friendly fire killings of 4 Canadian troops and the aparent cover-up by the American military.

U.S. pilots stay up taking 'uppers'

By William Walker


WASHINGTON — U.S. jet fighter pilots, responsible for at least 10 deadly "friendly fire" accidents in the Afghanistan war, have regularly been given amphetamines to fly longer hours.

Then when they return to base, the pilots are given sedatives by air force doctors to help them sleep, before beginning the whole cycle again on the next mission, often less than 12 hours later.

The exact drugs pilots are given and how they're taken is outlined in a 24-page document obtained by The Star, produced by the Top Gun fighter training school and the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory in Pensacola, Fla.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Air Force Surgeon-General's Office in Washington confirmed pilots are given the stimulant Dexedrine, generically known as dextroamphetamine, to stay alert during combat missions in Afghanistan.

Pilots refer to Dexedrine as "go-pills." The sleeping pills they are given, called Ambien (zolpidem) and Restoril (temazepam), are referred to as "no-go pills."

"When fatigue could be expected to degrade air crew performance, they are given Dexedrine in 10 mg doses," air force spokeswoman Betty-Anne Mauger told The Star.

It is not known whether Dexedrine was involved in the friendly fire incident in which an American fighter jet dropped a 500-pound laser-guided bomb that killed four Canadian soldiers early on April 18. But the possibility did come to the mind of one defence analyst.

"Better bombing through chemistry," remarked John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, a Washington-area defence policy think-tank.

"This was certainly one of my first thoughts after the Canadian friendly fire accident," he said in an interview. "The initial depiction made it seem as if the pilot was behaving in an unusually aggressive fashion."

Illinois Air National Guard Maj. Harry Schmidt was piloting the F-16 supersonic fighter that dropped the bomb. Maj. William Umbach was flying with him in another F-16 that night.

"I don't know the answer," Schmidt's lawyer, Charles Gittins, responded last night about whether Dexedrine was involved. "I never asked my pilot if he was medicated. But it's quite common. He's on vacation now, so I'll check with him about it when he gets back."

Pike said there's little controversy among politicians or the American public about the use of amphetamines by the air force because "I don't think anybody even knows about it.

"The aviation community and the air force community certainly don't like to talk about so-called `performance enhancing' drugs," he said.

There have been reports that Schmidt and his fellow pilots — originally deployed to patrol the U.S.-enforced no-fly zone over southern Iraq from an American base in Kuwait — had complained of fatigue since they were also ordered to fly combat missions over Afghanistan. Gittins said he was not aware of such complaints.

Schmidt and his fellow pilots had to fly for three hours to arrive at the combat zone. An F-16 mission to Afghanistan from Kuwait routinely takes nine hours including three hours over the target area plus the trip back. Pilots also attend pre-flight briefings and debriefings after they return.

Mauger said Dexedrine is commonly used by pilots on missions of more than eight hours' duration, or when pilots get less than the recommended 12 hours' rest between missions, as was the case for the pilots on double duty from the Kuwait air base.

The 24-page Top Gun document, entitled Performance Maintenance During Continuous Flight Operations, reports that in an anonymous survey among pilots who flew in Desert Storm, the 1991 Persian Gulf War, 60 per cent said they used Dexedrine. In units that saw the most frequent combat missions, usage was as high as 96 per cent.

During that war, Dexedrine was administered in doses of 5 mg each, as opposed to the 10 mg pills now offered to pilots in Afghanistan.

So far, amphetamine use has not been mentioned in the summaries made public of either the Canadian or U.S. probes into the accident, which killed Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry soldiers Sgt. Marc Léger, Pte. Nathan Smith, Pte. Richard Green and Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer.

But according to a leaked transcript of radio communications, Schmidt — after reporting that he was being fired at from the ground but being told by air controllers to "hold fire" — suddenly declared he was "rolling in" and dropped the bomb.

It was only after Schmidt hit his target that he asked the controllers to confirm he was being fired at. The dispatcher responded: "You're cleared. Self-defence."

The U.S. military appears to view pilots as machines. Under the heading "Basic Principles" in the Top Gun document, it says: "We manage maintenance, we manage fuel and weapons; we can also manage fatigue."

Pilots are allowed to "self-regulate" the amounts of Dexedrine they take. They carry the pills in the single-person ****pit of their F-16s and take them as they wish.

As one unidentified Desert Storm squadron commander said of his pilots in the document: "You must give them guidelines and then let them self-regulate. If you can't trust them with the medication then you can't trust them with a 50 million dollar airplane to try and go kill someone."

Retired Col. Richard Graham of Plano, Texas, who logged 4,600 hours of flight time in the U.S. Air Force, including 210 combat missions in Vietnam, said pilots in that war routinely took Dexedrine. The air force approved its use in 1960.

"We would be tested for uppers and downers and if we tolerated them okay, we went forward," he said in an interview. As long as nobody is abusing it, I think it's okay.

"I'm not a big fan of anybody taking medication in the flight business, but sometimes situations call for it in combat. I never had any bad effects from it and it served me well."

But medical literature indicates that amphetamines can have severe side effects. The worst is called "amphetamine psychosis." It causes hallucinations as well as paranoid delusions.

"Dexedrine also leads a person to build a tolerance level for the drug and when higher doses are offered, anything at that level develops addictive tendencies among those who continue to use it regularly," said Dr. Joyce A. Walsleben, director of the Sleep Disorder Centre at the New York University School of Medicine. "The threat of abuse and addiction is definitely higher with Dexedrine."

Pilots, after being tested for drug tolerance, are also asked to sign a consent form, which was also obtained by The Star.

Entitled "Informed Consent For Operational Use of Dexedrine," it begins by saying: "It has been explained to me and I understand that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of Dexedrine to manage fatigue ... (and) I further understand that the decision to take this medication is mine alone."

Air force insiders say the pilots really do not have a choice in taking the drug. The form states that "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 given mission."


Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...