In episode 67 David interviews Dr. Remington Nevin about the controversial anti-malarial drug mefloquine that for decades was given to soldiers in the US and other militaries because of its ability to kill the malaria parasite, despite knowledge of its toxicity.
Mefloquine is a member of the Quinoline family of drugs, several of which have psychiatric side effects, but Mefloquine became the drug most widely used, until quite recently. This is despite the experience of side effects like nightmares, psychotic outbursts, hallucinations, depersonalization and amnesia.
After discussing the history of the drug’s development, and the type of side effects experienced, David and Dr. Nevin discuss several disturbing possibilities, including that some psychotic episodes such as the massacre by Sgt. Bales of 16 Afghans could have been triggered by the drug. Some people believe that the use of high doses of mefloquine was not a public health measure, but was used to ‘soften up’ prisoners at Guantanamo prior to their torture there. The use of chloroquine drugs like mefloquine in the MK-Ultra CIA drug experiments is discussed. Perhaps most disturbingly of all, there is speculation, based on knowledge of the CIA program, that mefloquine side effects were seen as ‘performance enhancing’, making US soldiers less empathetic, more aggressive and more trigger happy, and worth the severe effects in a minority of soldiers. Dr. Nevin also discusses evidence that mefloquine was never even terribly effective against malaria, and that older drugs, without the toxicity, are actually more effective.
All in all, the interview is explosive.