Former US Contractor Says He Abused Drugs to Cope in Afghanistan

Ex-Jorge Scientific medic: 'Nightmare' frat-like base in Kabul was unbearable.

October 22, 2012, 8:36 AM

Oct. 22, 2012 — -- An American security contractor in Afghanistan, who was caught on video so stoned that he couldn't speak, told ABC News that the "nightmare" environment in which he felt trapped drove him to drugs.

Kevin Carlson, a 41-year-old former Special Forces soldier, worked as a team medic in Kabul for Jorge Scientific, a major U.S. defense contractor tasked with protecting Americans in the war-torn city and the subject of a recent ABC News investigation.

Despite the contractors' crucial mission, Carlson said employees at Jorge Scientific repeatedly defied regulations and consumed copious amounts of alcohol and drugs at the contractor's base of operations in Kabul -- a complex Carlson likened to a "frat house" that became unbearable for him.

"I don't like airing my own dirty laundry, don't like showing my own faults," Carlson said. "But the story needs to be told… It was getting to be such a nightmare, just living in that place."

In the course of the ABC News investigation, other former employees provided cell phone video appearing to show key personnel staggeringly drunk or high on narcotics at the operations center in Kabul. Carlson is seen on that video in a daze and unable to respond to requests for help after injecting himself with Ketamine, a prescription anesthetic.

WATCH Exclusive: Video Shows Drunk, Stoned US Defense Contractors

The use of alcohol or illegal drugs by U.S. contractors in Afghanistan is prohibited by the military under what is known as General Order Number One and Jorge Scientific, the recipient of almost $1 billion in U.S. government contracts, says it has a "zero tolerance" policy. Carlson was fired earlier this year for violating that policy.

But before he was let go, Carlson says drugs and alcohol were commonplace in the Jorge Scientific facility, in which employees were supposed to be ready 24/7 in case of attack.

"There's no way if we ever came under attack that they'd be able to do anything to protect or repel an invasion or an attack," Carlson told ABC News.

The cell phone video was shot by another former employee, Kenny Smith, who told ABC News he had gone to Carlson's room at 2:30 a.m. to seek medical assistance for another employee. That employee had been drinking so much alcohol earlier in the evening, he was found choking on his own vomit.

"Kevin, come on," Smith pleads on the video, as he attempts to get Carlson to sit up. "Please snap out of it, dude."

The video shows a used syringe on the floor near Carlson's bed. As Smith tries to rouse the medic, he tells him to pull his shirt sleeve down so as to hide the fresh needle mark. Carlson is heard slurring his speech, repeating what Smith tells him.

"You've been playing in the candy jar again, man, and I've told you," Smith tells Carlson.

Carlson says the constant partying at the Jorge Scientific facility became too much for him to bear.

"The longer I stayed there they kept drinking more. Doing more things that were not normal. Some just childish, dangerous things," he said.

He said he escaped by taking painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs, such as Percocet and Diazepam. As for the Ketamine he injected in his arm the night his medical skills were needed, he says it gave his mind "a mental break."

"I didn't want to use alcohol because that impaired you for so long and you have the effects the next day. So I chose Ketamine. I would take the Ketamine every once in a while just to give my mind a break and escape from the reality that was actually going on."

According to Carlson, he wasn't the only one abusing drugs. Other Jorge employees knew what the medic stocked and would "just come to my medicine cabinet and take it." He says many of those contractors would mix the drugs with alcohol, which he says would intensify the high.

Jorge Scientific said in a statement that it took "decisive action to correct the unacceptable behavior of a limited number of employees" and that several of them seen on the video are no longer employed by Jorge Scientific. It "remains confident that the personal misconduct did not impact the Company's contract performance."

While the military is tasked with overseeing contractors in the region, Carlson says the only Army personnel he saw visit the Jorge facility came to join in on the partying.

"We got a lot of Army soldiers, our U.S. forces soldiers, [who came] to the house to have dinner and party," Carlson said. "They consumed some of the alcohol… It's not like they didn't have an idea of what we were doing."

In a statement to ABC News, Col. Tom Collins, a U.S. Army spokesperson for the International Security Assistance Force, said, "Clearly, behavior such as that described by ABC News is not indicative of the outstanding work that thousands of contractors and service members perform every day in Afghanistan."

Carlson said he began government contract work after a 20-year military career -- 10 years in the infantry followed by 10 years in the Special Forces. He said he never abused drugs during that time and told ABC News he is now clean and hasn't used Ketamine since leaving the Jorge Scientific facility in Kabul.

Carlson, who is married with two children, is currently living in Germany and would like to continue as a medic with another government contractor. But, he admits, his behavior and subsequent firing from Jorge Scientific may halt what was once a promising career.

He said he's asked for forgiveness from his family "for putting them in the situation where I'm unemployed and now looking for a job and maybe not being able to get one because of what happened."

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