Australian troops have revealed the intense pressure of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Australia's media reported on Saturday. The troops have criticized the Defense organization and their allied counterparts as the troops detailed the hidden trauma of life on the front line. According to The Australian, in descriptions of overworked pilots addicted to Stilnox and other prescription drugs, an underground trade in illicit substances and sex, complaints about a lack of support, poor leadership and the constant fear of death, troops have provided a raw and disturbing account of Australia's involvement in the Middle East. The Weekend Australian has obtained an extraordinary selection of transcripts from 120 serving and former troops from the two Iraq offensives, dating back to the early 1990s, and the ongoing Afghanistan war in which they reveal the threats faced on deployment, not only from the enemy, but also from within. "Their frank and often disheartening comments, made in a supposedly confidential environment for researchers preparing Australia's largest-ever Defense health study, were so controversial that Defense has removed the transcripts from a research website and threatened reprisals over the apparent breach of information security," The Australian wrote. Defense on Friday night vowed to investigate many of the allegations raised by the focus groups, but insisted some of the members' concerns were dated and had already been addressed. The study itself was being conducted with a view to improving overall support and health-care. "Some of the comments raised serious issues of concern, and Defense will look into those and take appropriate action," the department said in a statement. The focus groups confirmed revelations in The Weekend Australian that specialist members of the defense force, such as pilots, were struggling to maintain the operational tempo. Several members of the focus groups, mainly medics and air force personnel, highlighted the challenge of repeat deployments and, for some, working constant night cycles. Aircrew expressed concerns about their use of prescription drugs and one Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) medic said crewmen had become dependent or even addicted. "We are still seeing the issues with the sleep-inducing agents, and a huge battle between the aircrew world and the health because of the long-term effects with Stilnox and problems with that," one RAAF medic said. "We say you cannot have it and the entire squadron is up in arms about that . . . and we are still plugging the issue about what is an appropriate sleep-inducing agent . . . it doesn't work in military operations because they are using continuously for four months . . . it's against all pharmacy principles." After the death from a suspected illegal drug overdose of a young Australian army commando in Afghanistan last month, Defense chief Angus Houston said there was "zero tolerance" of illegal drug use in the military. According the The Australian, the focus groups expressed a high level of concern about the divorce and separation rate, which one air-crew member described as "absolutely phenomenal". Defense has moved to upgrade the support provided to families. Some troops have had problems readjusting to life in Australia, complained of substandard food and dirty water in Afghanistan, poor hygiene in living quarters, and the fear that smoking cigarettes and cigars, and constantly inhaling dust, would have long-term health ramifications. While the government has undertaken a major review of mental health in Defense, and vowed to upgrade services, the focus groups expressed concern that post-deployment screening might not pick up their problems. One soldier said there had been 22 mental health discharges from his troop and six suicides. Separation from families has increased stress and anxiety, with focus groups criticizing the lack of support for family members at home. One soldier noted how five of his 26-member unit had divorced within several months of their return from the Middle East. The transcripts give insight into the frontline perceptions of Australia's efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the final 12- million-Australian-dollar (10.53 million U.S. dollars) study will involve thousands of current and former Australian Defense Force members. The focus groups may have aired some concerns about the first Gulf War which have since been addressed, but they also revealed serious, ongoing issues that Defense has sought to address in private, The Australian reported. This came after the recent death of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan, taking the total since the war began to 17, amid increasing community concern about the nation's involvement in the war. Defense Minister John Faulkner this week announced he was leaving the portfolio after next election.