It’s no secret that prescription drug abuse is an ongoing problem in the United States. It is estimated that in 2011, roughly 6.1 million Americans are abusing prescription drugs. Deaths from this kind of abuse has exceeded automobile-related deaths in several states. The Center for Disease Control has classified prescription drug abuse as an epidemic within the United States. And this kind of an epidemic does not discriminate. Within the United States Military, especially for veterans, prescription drug abuse is also an ongoing problem.
It’s no secret that US Veterans do not always have such an easy time readjusting to civilian life. Flashbacks, sleeplessness, anxiety and other problems plague their lives as they return from the battlefield. Soldiers are experiencing these problems during active duty, and are often medicated. The usage of the drug follows them home, wherein, like so many others, they become dependent upon it.
What Is Prescription Drug Abuse?Prescription drugs are drugs that a prescribed by doctors for specific usage in specific quantities. The types of prescription drugs that are abused are typically painkillers such as morphine and Valium. Abuse technically falls under the definition of users of prescription drugs taking more than they should at a higher frequency than is recommended.
According to the article Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies To Stop The Epidemic published in 10/2013 by HealthyAmericans.org, prescription drug overdose deaths now outnumber those of cocaine and heroin combined. The article explains, “prescription drug abuse has quickly become a top public health concern, as the number of drug overdose deaths - a majority of which are from prescription drugs - doubled in 29 states since 1999. The rates quadrupled in four of these states and tripled in 10 more of these states.”
Drug overdose deaths exceed vehicle-related deaths in 29 states and Washington D.C.
As an article from TheAmericanConservative.com (TAC) explains, the fatalities that befall US Veterans returning home are usually suicide and sudden death of an unknown cause, aside from all other domestic causes for death, such as car accidents and so on. The deaths that are from an unknown cause are often linked to a possibility of prescription drug abuse.
From dealing with post-war issues, soldiers are often prescribed a flurry of different kinds of medications. The cocktail of these different kinds of prescriptions can often cause, if taken at the incorrect dosage or with something like alcohol or illicit substances, a fatal reaction in the body can occur and these veterans sometimes simply do not wake up. These deaths are often suspected to be unintentional.
“You get a cocktail, and it’s usually a sleeping pill, anti-anxiety medication, an antidepressant and an antipsychotic- and sometimes even a stimulant like Ritalin or Adderal,” noted Lt. Col. Charles Ruby, who retired from the Air Force and is now working as a clinical psychologist and advocate for veterans. “You have no idea what can happen,” he explains to TheAmericanConservative.com.
The article goes on to explain that there are several instances within the military where drugs are doled out to soldiers and home and on the battlefield, especially at treatment facilities for wounded veterans, wherein they become addicted to whatever painkillers or other medications they are taking rather easily.
Around 2008, facilities were set up with the military called Warrior Transition Units, or WTUs. These are designed to help treat wounded soldiers returning from the battlefield. As reported by FOXNews.com in Ferurary 2008, these WTUs are set up, “to give sick, injured and war-wounded troops coordinated medical care, financial advice, legal help and other services as they transition toward either a return to uniform or back into civilian life.”
As reported by TAC, Dr. Paula Caplan of Harvard University says the unknowns outweigh the benefits when it comes to taking so many prescription drugs in order to take care of a large amount of problems that veterans experience upon returning home from the battlefield. When some veterans could be taking upwards of 20 to 40 different pills a day, half of them psychotropic, the results can be unpredictable. “You don’t know what effect the drug may have on them.”
There are too many problems that are surrounding the excessive usage of prescription drug abuse for United States veterans. The military should begin to initiate a plan for alternative treatments such as counseling. We cannot stand by while our soldiers are returning home from duty and dying unexpectedly because of negligence on behalf of those whom are treating them for their internal and external wounds.
Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.