FAKE: Ukrainian Armed Forces are being "pumped" with banned substances before combat

FAKE: Ukrainian Armed Forces are being “pumped” with banned substances before combat

22 March 2024

Verification within Meta’s Third-Party Fact-Checking Program

Russians once again discredit the Ukrainian military by claiming that the publication Time wrote that Ukrainian soldiers are being “pumped” with the hallucinogenic drug ketamine. Supposedly, the substance helps soldiers overcome fear in combat. However, ketamine therapy, as American journalists write, is supposedly prohibited and leads to addiction to narcotic substances.

However, this is a fake. In reality, ketamine is used to treat PTSD in military personnel. Meanwhile, the Russians themselves use the drug amphetamine before combat.

In the article for Time, the author describes the general problem of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among people worldwide, using Ukrainians as an example. The author notes that, according to the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, about 3-4 million Ukrainians live with PTSD. However, Time likely made a mistake in translation because the Minister of Health of Ukraine, Viktor Liashko, stated that 3-4 million Ukrainians would need medication treatment specifically due to the war, but did not mention the number of people suffering from PTSD. According to the National Health Service of Ukraine, in 2023, the diagnosis of PTSD was officially established in 12,494 patients, and from January 1 to March 6, 2024, in 3,292 patients.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a chronic psychological condition that can develop after exposure to a traumatic or threatening event. People with PTSD may experience intrusive memories, anxious thoughts, re-experiencing traumatic events, and so on. In most cases, PTSD is treatable, so if symptoms are detected, it is advisable to seek medical help.

According to the author of the Time article, traditional methods of treating PTSD include cognitive-behavioral therapy and antidepressants. However, for many war veterans, such medications are ineffective and may lead to other side effects. Therefore, in such cases, as Time writes, psychoactive substances may be used for the treatment of military personnel. One such substance — ketamine — is used for treating Ukrainian soldiers.

In January 2024, The Economist reported on a case of treating a military serviceman with ketamine. After one of the shelling incidents, a Ukrainian soldier was taken to the hospital, where doctors performed surgery and saved his heart and sight. However, the doctors couldn’t treat the soldier’s psychological condition. Then, Ukrainian psychotherapist Vladyslav Matrenytskyi advised the soldier to try ketamine therapy, which ultimately eliminated his stuttering and restored him to a normal state. However, none of the articles mention specifically the “pumping” of Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers with hallucinogenic drugs before combat.

Claims about banned ketamine are also false, as the drug is officially registered in Ukraine as a medicinal product. It is used as an anesthetic for minor diagnostic procedures or surgical interventions in children or occasionally in adults. The substance is also used in veterinary medicine to reduce pain sensitivity in animals during surgery.

Moreover, Russians mostly accuse Ukraine of what they themselves do. The author of the Time article refers to a report from the Royal United Services Institute, which indicates that Russian military personnel are given a narcotic substance — amphetamine — before combat. According to the author, isolated cases of psychotropic substance use before combat occur in some Ukrainian brigades. However, this is not the initiative of the state or military command, but the decision of individual soldiers. Narcotic substances were also used by American, British, Japanese, and German military personnel during World War II to improve their endurance. At that time, psychotropic substances were also used to treat American soldiers with concussions. However, all these examples are not evidence of the Russian myth of “mass drug addiction in the Ukrainian Armed Forces.”


The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations