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In January, 16 United States military personnel were killed during combat operations in Iraq. During the same span, the Army says there were 24 suspected suicides in its branch of the Armed Forces alone.

Last month, the ratio of combat deaths to suspected Army suicides was 17 to 18.

Back when the biggest threat to U.S. troops in Iraq was an unyielding insurgency, a "surge" of personnel seemed like a good idea. But now that many of those troops have been left traumatized and heavily medicated, they may need to be saved from themselves.

As both active-duty personnel and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder rise in number, a military already stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan has prescribed its troops medication to keep them on the battlefield.

Side effects have included a spike in self-medication, a lack of adequate long-term treatment and follow-up, and a record number of troops and veterans eventually turning to suicide.

As we mark the sixth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war (see "The war, on drugs"), the Pentagon still lacks the ability, finances and will to care sufficiently for its shaken troops and vets. By trying to medicate away its shortcomings, the military is exacting a tragic toll that doctors, personnel and families are finding hard to swallow.

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