In as recently released government study veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan were the subject. It was found that these veterans who had been diagnosed with PTSD were actually being prescribed morphine and similar powerful painkillers two times more often to vets with only physical pain and the biggest thing about this is that these vets are already at risk for alcohol and drug abuse.
The study also showed that the vets who developed PTSD; already had pre-existing substance abuse issues and were four times more likely to be prescribed addictive painkillers than those without mental health problems. So what do you think the result of all this is? Suicides and other self-inflicted injuries and drug and alcohol overdoses were more prevalent in vets with PTSD who received painkilling drugs. And of course many will eventually require help from prescription drug rehabs.
They were prescribed these drugs with the hope that the emotional distress that accompanies chronic pain will also be reduced but this hope is not fulfilled and these drugs can sometimes make emotional problems worse.
The study looked at 141,029 men and women who came from Iraq and Afghanistan. These vets had been diagnosed with non-cancerous physical pain and half of them were diagnosed with mental health problems like PTSD. The Department of Veterans Affairs paid for the study.
Dr. Karen Seal is the lead author of the study. She is treating patients at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and she stated: “I have sometimes prescribed opiates to war veterans, but only if other painkillers have not been effective.” This sounds like a rational policy, but not all doctors are as cautious, and many of these patients can end up in Sacramento drug rehabs.
The Veterans Administration said while their pain management program has been called a model of care, “we recognize that more work needs to be done.” Another study done by the RAND Corporation from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America states, “Among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, rates of psychological and neurological injuries are high and rising. Nearly 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans screen positive for PTSD or depression. Although these statistics are troubling, we have yet to see the full extent of troops’psychological and neurological injuries. Service members are still deploying on long and repeated combat tours, which increase the risk of blast injuries and combat stress. Rates of marital stress, substance abuse, and suicide are all increasing. Divorce rates among female Marines were nearly three times the national average, and the Army suicide rate hit a 27 year high in 2008.”
In the VA sponsored study, it was found that more than three-quarters of the opiate prescriptions given to vets – 77 percent came from primary care physicians. That tells me that when these vets got home they went to see their doctor for help with their problems and they gave them opiates to help; but little did they know that these drugs will only make things worse. Yes, we need to more to help these vets. They went to fight for our country. While that is an ideal purpose it is noted here that there should be a balance of taking care of themselves as well as our country.