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Army investigates drug overdoses

Suspects deaths similar to actor's

Email|Print| Text size + By Pauline Jelinek
Associated Press / February 8, 2008

WASHINGTON - The Army's top doctor, noting the accidental drug overdose death of actor Heath Ledger, said yesterday that the military is investigating a series of suspected similar deaths among wounded and injured soldiers.

Lieutenant General Eric B. Schoomaker, the Army's surgeon general, said there has been "a series, a sequence of deaths," in the new, so-called warrior transition units. Those are special units set up last year to give sick, injured, and war-wounded troops coordinated medical care, financial advice, legal help, and other services as they return to uniform or civilian life.

Without giving a number, Schoomaker said the deaths among the convalescing troops were "accidental deaths, we believe, often as a consequence of the use of multiple prescription and nonprescription medicines and alcohol."

"This isn't restricted to the military, alone, as we all saw the unfortunate death of one of our leading actors recently," Schoomaker told Pentagon reporters.

The New York medical examiner announced Wednesday that Ledger, the 28-year-old "Brokeback Mountain" star, died Jan. 22 of an accidental overdose - the effects of taking six types of painkillers and sedatives.

Schoomaker said he didn't know whether the number of overdoses among soldiers was on the rise.

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