Pharmaceutical Creep: U.S. Military Power and the Global and Transnational Mobility of Psychopharmaceuticals


In 2006, the United States Department of Defense developed for the first time official criteria for the use of psychopharmaceuticals “in theater”—in the physical and tactical spaces of military operations including active combat. Based on fieldwork with Army soldiers and veterans, this article explores the transnational and global dimensions of military psychopharmaceutical use in the post‐9/11 wars. I consider the spatial, material, and symbolic dimensions of what I call “pharmaceutical creep”—the slow drift of psychopharmaceuticals from the civilian world into theater and into the military corporate body. While pharmaceutical creep is managed by the U.S. military as a problem of gatekeeping and of supply and provisioning, medications can appear as the solution to recruitment and performance problems once in theater. Drawing on soldiers’ accounts of medication use, I illuminate the possibilities, but also the frictions, that arise when routine psychopharmaceuticals are remade into technologies of global counterinsurgency.