June 17, 2008 — -- Mentally distressed veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are being recruited for government tests on pharmaceutical drugs linked to suicide and other violent side effects, an investigation by ABC News and The Washington Times has found.
The report will air on Good Morning America and will also appear in The Washington Times on Tuesday. (click here to read the Washington Times coverage of "Disposable Heroes")
In one of the human experiments, involving the anti-smoking drug Chantix, Veterans Administration doctors waited more than three months before warning veterans about the possible serious side effects, including suicide and neuropsychiatric behavior.
"Lab rat, guinea pig, disposable hero," said former US Army sniper James Elliott in describing how he felt he was betrayed by the Veterans Administration.
Elliott, 38, of suburban Washington, D.C., was recruited, at $30 a month, for the Chantix anti-smoking study three years after being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He served a 15-month tour of duty in Iraq from 2003-2004.
Months after he began taking the drug, Elliott suffered a mental breakdown, experiencing a relapse of Iraq combat nightmares he blames on Chantix.
"They never told me that I was going to be suicidal, that I would cease sleeping. They never told me anything except this will help me quit smoking," Elliott told ABC News and The Washington Times.
On the night of February 5th, after consuming a few beers, Elliott says he "snapped" and left his home with a loaded gun.
His fiancee, Tammy, called police and warned, "He's extremely unstable. He has PTSD."
"Do you think that he is going to shoot or attack the police?" the 911 dispatcher asked.
"I can't be certain. I don't know," she said. (click here to hear part of Tammy's 911 call)
"He was operating as if he was back in theater, in combat theater," she told ABC News. "And of course, a soldier goes nowhere without a gun."
When police arrived, they found Elliott in the street, with the gun in the front pocket of his hooded sweatshirt.
"Are you going to shoot me? Shoot me," Elliott said, according to the police report. (click here to see the police report)