Popular Malaria Drug Poses Risk of Aggression, Delirium, and Violence in Soldiers

Chris Nace, Esq.


One of the most widely prescribed malaria drugs may pose serious risk to military personnel (Alternet). Lariam (mefloquine) is the least expensive and most convenient of malaria treatment. Patients only have to take it once a week, instead of everyday. So, what makes Lariam so dangerous?

Christoper Nace, Esq.

Christoper Nace, Esq.

Lariam has effects similar to the drug PCP, including delirium and hallucinations. These neurotoxic effects can stay in one’s system for weeks or years. Travelers taking it report vivid nightmares and memory loss, but the real issue lies in a more particular demographic: soldiers and veterans. Medical and military authorities warn that the drug should not be given to anyone with symptoms of a brain injury, depression or anxiety disorder because it can cause “extreme panic, paranoia and rage in the user,” in addition to  “out-of-body ‘dissociative’ and dream-like sensations so that a person performing a criminal act often believes someone else is doing it” (Alternet).

Unsurprisingly, mefloquine has been linked to tragic shootings and incidents of violence abroad and at home as recently as 2012, when a soldier killed 16 Afghan civilians .  A dark backstory to this horrific violence that soldiers inflict on themselves and others, is that the military, government, and Big Pharma place the blame on factors other than widespread psychiatric drug use. For example, a recent Big Pharma funded study did not even consider drugs that are given to soldiers and carry warnings of suicide.

Patients, doctors, public health officials, and those affected by the horrors of this drug have long been fighting to restrict its use in the military. Thankfully, there are new prescription restrictions on Lariam–but they’ve been a long time coming and have a long way to go. Lariam is banned for Air Force Pilots, but on rise in the Marines and Navy. Patients now have to sign a consent form and are given a medication guide with wallet card (a form of ID that shows you are taking mefloquine), but Lariam is still the third most prescribed anti-malarial drug (Center for Disease Control). Like many dangerous drugs, it is  continually prescribed off label to soldiers and regular travelers alike, without indication of its “blackbox” warning or screening of patients for psychological disorder. Adding to this risk, soldiers can overdose on the drug due to lack of oversight.

If you are planning on traveling abroad, take caution in deciding which malaria drug might be best for you. Remember that newly approved drugs may not be the best drugs. To learn more about the risks of Lariam (“mefloquine”) and other malaria drugs, read Martha Rosenberg’s investigative story here.

If you or a loved one has taken or is currently taking Lariam, and may be suffering from its serious side effects, reach out to a medical professional immediately. You may also be able to explore legal options. Contact an attorney to discuss your options.

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