Drugs Administered to Guantanamo Detainees are Equivalent to “Pharmacological Waterboarding”

by Project Censored
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In an act an Army public health physician called “pharmacological waterboarding,” Guantanamo Bay detainees were forced to take a high dosage of anti-malarial drug mefloquine in January 2002. The experimentation was discovered in government investigation papers about the June 2006 death of three inmates and reported by the Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Policy and Research in 2010. The drug was administered according to “Standard Inprocessing Orders for Detainees” and discontinued in September 2009.

At standard doses, mefloquine can cause suicidal thoughts, paranoia, hallucinations, psychotic behavior, and convulsions; at large doses, side effects last from weeks to months. Detainees were administered five times the prophylactic dose of mefloquine without testing for malaria or contraindicating conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), presumptive malaria treatment should only be reserved for extreme circumstances. Seton Hall research fellow Sean Camoni said “there is no legitimate medical purpose for treating malaria in this way,” suggesting the drug was administered for its severe side effects. If so, the drug’s administration violated international anti-torture laws.

The mefloquine tests are suspect because Cuba has been malaria-free for 50 years. Military doctors who raised doubts about the drug were ordered to remain silent, informed consent was waived for military “medical products,” and the Health and Human Services was given unprecedented authority to classify information regarding Guantanamo. According to Maj. Remington Nevin, an Army public health physician, the mefloquine effects “could be as severe as those intended through the application of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’”


“Controversial Drug Given to All Guantanamo Detainees Akin to ‘Pharmacologic Waterboarding’” Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye, Truthout, December 1, 2010


“Drug Abuse: An Exploration of the Government’s Use of Mefloquine at Guantanamo” Mark Denbeaux, Seton Hall Center for Policy and Research, December 2, 2010


“Guantanamo’s Medical Victims” Editorial, The Hindu, December 30, 2010


Student Researchers: Stephen Esposito, Greg Lambert, Jud Strong

Faculty Instructor: Kevin Howley Ph. D.

Evaluator: Glen Kuecker Ph. D., Historian

DePauw University