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West Virginia Paper: 4th Local Vet Taking 'PTSD Drugs' Dies.

A report in the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette connects four recent deaths in the area to a combination of drugs taken to help the veterans suffering from post-traumatic shock disorder.

This comes on top of what appears to be a surge in Iraq vet suicides around the country, often reported only in local newspapers.

The article by Julie Robinson is at:

It opens as follows.*

A Putnam County veteran who was taking medication prescribed for post-traumatic stress disorder died in his sleep earlier this month, in circumstances similar to the deaths of three other area veterans earlier this year.

Derek Johnson, 22, of Hurricane, served in the infantry in the Middle East in 2005, where he was wounded in combat and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder while hospitalized.

Military doctors prescribed Paxil, Klonopin and Seroquel for Johnson, the same combination taken by veterans Andrew White, 23, of Cross Lanes; Eric Layne, 29, of Kanawha City; and Nicholas Endicott of Logan County. All were in apparently good physical health when they died in their sleep.

Johnson was taking Klonopin and Seroquel, as prescribed, at the time of his death, said his grandmother, Georgeann Underwood of Hurricane. Both drugs are frequently used in combination to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Klonopin causes excessive drowsiness in some patients.

He also was taking a painkiller for a back injury he sustained in a car accident about a week before his death, but was no longer taking Paxil.

On May 1, the night before he died, Johnson called his grandfather, Duck Underwood, and asked if he could pick up his 5-year-old son and take him to school the next day. Johnson and his wife, Stacie, have three children, all under 6 years old. Their car had been totaled in the accident the previous week.

When Underwood arrived to pick up the boy the next morning, his knocks were not answered at first. He heard Stacie Johnson screaming. She opened the door and told him she couldn't wake her husband. They called paramedics, who could not revive him. Doctors did not declare an immediate cause of death.

Toxicology and autopsy results could take as long as 60 days, authorities told the family.

"I want to know the cause of death," said Ray Johnson, Derek's father. "Stacie said he was fine that night. Everything was normal. He kissed her goodnight and went to sleep."

Stan White, father of soldier Andrew White, has become an advocate for families of returning veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. During his son's struggle with the disorder and since his death, White has tracked similar cases. He knows of about eight in the tri-state area of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.*Greg Mitchell's new book has several chapters on related issues. It is titled "So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq."

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Title Annotation:post traumatic stress disorder
Author:Mitchell, Greg
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 24, 2008
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