Texas paper chronicles veterans' drug overdose deaths

Autopsy reports and other records expose a hidden pattern of early deaths.

During a six-month investigation, the Austin American-Statesman dug out the records -- autopsy reports, inquests, toxicology and accident reports -- on the deaths of 266 Texas Afghanistan and Iraq veterans. The records revealed “an alarmingly high percentage died from prescription drug overdoses, toxic drug combinations, suicide and single-vehicle crashes -- a largely unseen pattern of early deaths that federal authorities are failing to adequately track and have been slow to respond to.”

I’ve reported on the misuse of prescription drugs by the Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments in our Broken Warrior series since January 2011 and the American-Statesman investigation shows the deadly result of this over reliance on pills: More than one on three Texas vets died from a drug overdose, a fatal combination of drugs or a drug related suicide.

Maybe it’s time for the Army to stop releasing raw statistics on suicides and start to reveal the cause. I bet drugs play a huge role.

This article is reporting at its best -- the kind of grunt work that will never be replaced by a Twitter feed, a blog post or a Facebook page.