Super Soldiers? Special Ops Troops May Get Performance-Enhancing Drugs
Policy + Politics

Super Soldiers? Special Ops Troops May Get Performance-Enhancing Drugs

Paramount Pictures

In the 1992 movie Universal Soldier, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a Special Forces officer in Vietnam who is killed, revived and turned into a genetically-altered super warrior.

Maybe someone at the Army’s Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has seen the film or one of its many sequels on cable recently because the military is looking at ways to pump up the performance of elite soldiers through nutritional supplements and performance-enhancing drugs, according to Defense News.

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It’s no secret that combat soldiers have been known to take drugs that boost endurance and stamina and keep them awake, but such methods have never been officially sanctioned.

Now, though, the Army may be recognizing what Wall Street traders and Silicon Valley geeks have known for years – that drugs such as Adderall, Modafinil and so-called nootropics can improve wakefulness and focus.

USSOCOM wants to “increase pain tolerance, injury prevention and recovery, and physical performance in austere environments,” Defense News said.

Ben Chitty, a biomedical and human performance manager at USSOCOM, told the website that one aim is to achieve maximum physical capacity in special situations, such as operating at high altitudes or being  underwater for long periods of time without food or water.

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Of course, he cautioned, any decision about using performance-enhancing drugs would be made after consulting with medical experts.

While drugs such as Adderall require a prescription, nootropics such as compounds made by the startup Nootrobox are marketed as dietary supplements. Although their efficacy has not been proved, they are popular in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

Soldiers primed for battle by drugs has apparently been going on at least since World War II. The recent best-seller Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich says that Nazi party members and the Wehrmacht were frequently using an array of stimulants, especially methamphetamine.