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Psychological effects of chemical weapons: follow-up study on WW1 veterans

MARCH 26, 2008

Professor Edgar Jones, Institute of Psychiatry at King's is the lead author of a new study published on line in the journal Psychological Medicine looking at the psychological effects of chemical weapons on veterans of the First World War. 

By following up a random sample of 103 soldiers awarded a pension for gassing, it shows that they continued to experience a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms long after the respiratory or skin lesions had healed.  Upper respiratory tract infections acquired in peacetime reinforced beliefs about the power of gas to cause serious and lasting harm and a general debate flourished in the medical community about the capacity of chemical weapons to trigger latent tuberculosis.

These findings resonate with recent studies of US veterans who believe that they were gassed when engaged in the 1991 Gulf War.  In a society which is increasingly ‘chemophobic’, there is every reason to conclude that the psychological effects of chemical weapons are as potent today as when used during the First World War.

The paper entitled: Psychological effects of chemical weapons: a follow-up study of First World War veterans can be downloaded from the Psychological Medicine web pages and is published by Cambridge University Press 2008.  The article will also appear in a forthcoming printed copy of the journal.  The authors work at the Institute of Psychiatry and the King's Centre for Military Health Research, Weston Education Centre, London SE5.  Authors details: Edgar Jones, Brian Everitt, Stephen Ironside, Ian Palmer and Simon Wessely. 
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