Former national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane, a key and controversial figure in the Iran arms scandal, was admitted to Bethesda Naval Hospital today after taking an overdose of Valium, one of his lawyers said.
McFarlane, 49, was “in good condition” and under observation this afternoon, said John Henshaw, an aide to McFarlane in his office at the Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“There was an overdose of Valium,” said Peter Morgan, an attorney for McFarlane.
Morgan said McFarlane, a father of three, was at home with his wife, Jonda, when the episode occurred.
“I think his wife became concerned by his condition and called the hospital,” he said. McFarlane was taken to the hospital by ambulance.
Asked whether the overdose was accidental, Morgan said, “I don’t know.”
‘Whole Thing Weighs on Him’
A source close to McFarlane said: “I think the whole thing weighs on him obviously. I think he feels bad that the Iran arms deals turned into a big problem.”
Henshaw said McFarlane went to the hospital after suffering an “adverse reaction to a prescribed medication he took” and said the reaction did not cause a life-threatening situation. Henshaw would not say what prescription drug McFarlane was taking.
The White House declined to discuss McFarlane’s hospitalization, noting that he is now a private citizen.
Valium, a widely used tranquilizer, is often prescribed for treatment of anxiety. Symptoms of overdosage include sleepiness, confusion, coma and diminished reflexes, according to the Physicians’ Desk Reference.
McFarlane has come under scrutiny because of discrepancies between his testimony and that of White House Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan over President Reagan’s early actions in the shipment of arms to Iran.
McFarlane has testified that Reagan approved the first shipment of arms to Iran in August, 1985, before they took place, but Regan said the President learned of the shipment after the fact from McFarlane.
McFarlane has said he found Regan’s version “puzzling” and could not account for it.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz claimed that he was “out of the loop” and knew little about the arms sales, while McFarlane said Shultz was kept informed.
Sen. David L. Boren (D-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said: “There are some things that strike me as strange about Mr. McFarlane’s testimony. His testimony leaves a lot of questions unresolved.”
According to Hashemi Rafsanjani, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, McFarlane carried a Bible signed by Reagan and a cake in the shape of a key with him to Tehran last May. McFarlane has acknowledged leaving a planeload of weapons behind as well.
McFarlane is the second major figure in the Iran- contra controversy to be hospitalized.
William J. Casey, who resigned last week as director of the CIA, underwent surgery for a malignant brain tumor after testifying before Congress about the diversion of funds from the arms sales to the contras.