The Newest Threat to Our Military Personnel
The old saying, “war is hell,” is an understatement. A big one.
If what our war veterans go through while serving their country wasn’t already traumatic enough, a new study has found that Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans with psychiatric disorders (such as post-traumatic stress disorder) are likely to use and become addicted to prescription narcotic painkillers.
Apparently, when it rains it does indeed pour.
Details of the Study
The study was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and led by Dr. Karen Seal of the San Francisco Veterans Affair Medical Center. The researchers looked at over 140,000 veterans that were treated for pain in VA hospitals between 2005 and 2010. They took into consideration factors such as mental health, accidents, self-inflicted injury, and overdose with use of painkillers.
What they found was that close to 16,000 of the veterans received painkiller prescriptions for 20 or more days, including drugs such as Percocet, Oxycontin, and Vicodin.
Now, that might not seem like such a big deal just by looking at those numbers, and based on that information alone. After all, many of our veterans were injured in the war and would most certainly require some sort of pain medication at some point.
But this next information is where it becomes evident that something else is going on. Approximately 18 percent of the subjects who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and close to 12 percent who suffered from other mental health issues (like anxiety and depression) received prescriptions for narcotic painkillers in comparison to less than seven percent who had no mental health issues.
It was also found that veterans with PTSD were far more likely to take more than one type of painkiller and higher doses than the veterans who were mentally healthy. Not only that, but they were more likely to refill their prescriptions early and take sedatives, which indicates that they’re going through their medication faster than prescribed and may be self-medicating.
What This Means
The study makes it apparent that many veterans who are suffering from mental health disorders (post-traumatic stress disorder in particular) are using VA primary care as opposed to seeking out the help of doctors that specialize in the management of PTSD and pain. This information also brings to light the concern that veterans who are prescribed opioids should be more closely monitored and given greater assistance in dealing with their mental distress to avoid prescription narcotic painkiller abuse and the many dangers associated with it.
The department of Veterans Affairs has acknowledged the study and the concern associated with it, and recognizes that more work needs to be done when it comes to the treatment of PTSD and pain.
The tricky part is getting them to actually do something about it.