Soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have a high risk of facing issues with drug abuse when they return home. It is common for military veterans to experience symptoms of PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder, along with chronic pain due to combat injuries. These kinds of problems typically are treated with prescription medications like morphine and other powerful painkillers and sedatives that can easily become habit-forming. Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic rates throughout the U.S. but military veteran have been hit especially hard due to injuries and mental health problems. The consequences of veterans being prescribed powerful prescription drugs for their war-related problems can be tragic in many cases.
The High Risk for Those with PTSD
The military veterans most at risk for developing addiction and abuse problems are those with the dual issue of both symptoms of PTSD and physical pain due to injuries. This group is twice as likely to be prescribed addictive painkillers as those suffering from only physical pain with no mental health problems. Vets with PTSD who are prescribed addictive painkillers can see tragic consequences with higher rates of suicide, self-inflicted injuries and drug or alcohol overdoses. For veterans overall, the fatal overdose rate is nearly double the national average. Concern has grown in the U.S. that veterans are being overmedicated and should be given special attention by physicians so that they do not end up with a prescription addiction. Reports indicate that 25 to 35% of veterans in transition units are dependent on or addicted to drugs. Veterans are frequently experiencing overdoses due to addiction and deaths due to accidental reactions to prescription combinations.
With the growing problem of addiction among veterans, physicians face the challenge of treating soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan for their numerous health problems. Many veterans return home with devastating physical injuries which can lead them to suffer from chronic pain problems. The horrifying experiences that many veterans have while being involved in war can cause severe anxiety and depression as well as other symptoms of PTSD such as flashbacks, nightmares and insomnia. Veterans with pain and PTSD may need prescription medication to continue functioning in their daily life so they can work and live comfortably. With the high danger of abuse, however, it is important that physicians find less risky kinds of treatment and possibly use therapies other than drugs for veterans.
Therapy and Counseling Instead of Pills
Doctors may often make the mistake of prescribing opoids to veterans who are experiencing emotional turmoil along with their intense physical pain caused by injuries. Powerful and dangerous opiod pain killers like morphine or hydrocodone can dull severe pain and physicians may believe they can alleviate stress as well. While opoids may temporarily sedate a veteran with anxiety due to PTSD, the medication will ultimately worsen their emotional problems especially if they develop a dependency on the drugs. Veterans will benefit the most from receiving non-drug treatment for their emotional distress from mental health experts. Therapy and counseling can be the best solution because they can resolve issues while also reducing the dangers of addiction and overdose.
While veterans usually face serious problems after returning home from war, doctors may still be too quick to prescribe strong painkillers and other types of medications that can become addictive. The number of veterans developing a dependency on opiate painkillers should be a cause for concern and a reason to rethink the way physicians treat people who have recently served in a war. Those with PTSD need behavior counseling and therapy to help alleviate their symptoms rather than powerful kinds of medication. The more attention is drawn to this problem, the more change will be made that can improve the situation for returning military veterans.