Front-line troops given `mind and body' injection

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The Independent Online
Russian troops fighting in Grozny have been injected with drugs to numb "mind and body" against the effects of combat, according to reports from Mozdok, the headquarters of the Russian operation, writes Christopher Bellamy.

That could explain the poor standard of Russian military performance and the apparent breakdown of command and control, especially if combined with alcohol, which Russian troops have been imbibing in large quantities.

A Russian military doctor at Mozdok said that before leaving for the front, Russian troops received a "powerful analgesic to numb both mind and body against both mental and physical effects of combat".

British military doctors yesterday said they saw no point in administering analgesics - pain killers - since they would slow troops' reactions and, if a soldier was hit, would not diminish the pain very much. The only prophylactic measures of this kind taken by Western armies are antidotes against chemical weapons.

"If the wording is correct it wouldn't be a straightforward analgesic," said Dr Joe Collier, a clinical pharmacologist at St George's Medical School, south London. "If it affects body and mind, it must be an opiate - like pethidine - which is given prior to operations. But soldiers on that might be foolhardy and disobey orders. If you say `go over there', they'll say `why?' It would compromise performance rather than improve it."

Analgesics would last for several hours, maybe a day, Dr Collier said. Anabolic steroids would make better sense. "They don't slow your reaction time, they heighten aggression and tolerance of pain," Dr Collier said. "If I were a military commander, I'd rather have my men on anabolic steroids than opiates."

The final option, Dr Collier said, was that the injections were merely a placebo - "a con". The soldiers' performance would not be diminished, but they would believe that, if they were hit, it would not hurt, he said. Once committed to the vicious fighting in Grozny, with poor medical facilities and widespread reports of atrocities, people are not afraid to die. They are just afraid it might hurt.

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