This is an extract from a recent story by Sheila Pratt in the Edmonton Journal, covering her interview with former Canadian military psychiatrist Dr Greg Passey. One of the problems encountered by mefloquine veterans because of the nature of this drug’s side effects is that they are commonly misdiagnosed with PTSD or other psychiatric disorders, without receiving correct diagnosis or treatment for the chronic neurotoxicity syndrome which can be caused by mefloquine and other synthetic quinolines. Here, Passey agrees with many of the concerns raised by Canadian mefloquine veterans and describes his unsuccessful efforts to testify to the 1996 Canadian Government inquiry into the Somalia Affair.
Also listen to Mr John Dowe’s recent interview about mefloquine and the Somalia Affair here.
From Sheila Pratt, New push for ban on mefloquine in the Canadian military, Edmonton Journal, 30 January 2016.
In January 1996, army psychiatrist Dr. Greg Passey informed his bosses he would testify at the Somali inquiry into the conduct of the now disbanded Canadian Airborne Regiment.
Passey was convinced the anti-malaria drug mefloquine taken by the troops played a role in the shocking behaviour of two soldiers involved in the beating death of Somali civilian Shidane Aron in 1993 during a mission in that country.
“I had served with the airborne in Rwanda. They were really professional,” Passey said in a recent interview.
But something had gone wrong on that fateful night in Somalia. Passey figured mefloquine played a role.
“I thought the military should be aware of — that the courts should be aware — that it has the potential to have an extreme effect on individual behaviour.
“I wrote a letter to the committee in January 1996 and stated my opinion that mefloquine had significant side-effects … of paranoia and aggression.”
“Unfortunately, the Liberal government shut down the inquiry the week before I was to testify. And that was the end of my involvement in the issue until now.”
In recent months, former airborne veterans have started a campaign to ban mefloquine and re-examine its impact on former soldiers.
Passey, who went on to become an expert in post-traumatic stress disorder, agrees with their concerns.
He saw the side-effects when he was in Rwanda just after the genocide, where Canadian General Romeo Dallaire headed a small UN force. Passey was head of a mental health team sent to assess the condition of military members who witnessed the slaughter.
Passey took mefloquine himself. While he personally had no side-effects, he saw them in two members of his team and it made him uncomfortable.
“These two became isolated, mistrustful, paranoid and verbally aggressive. At one point in a meeting, one of them pulled out a knife and was playing with it.”