Men and women who enlist in the U.S. military are facing a growing threat on a battlefield of a different kind. A surge in the number of prescriptions given to service men and women has had a direct effect on the cases of drug abuse and addiction being reported.
In some cases, high-powered opiate painkillers are prescribed to treat injuries and illnesses. For others, medications including benzodiazepines, which can also cause dependence, are prescribed to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Figures from the Pentagon show that the number of military men and women diagnosed each year with substance abuse disorders increased 50 percent to almost 40,000 between 2005 and 2009. Statistics from the government also show that 3.7 million doses of prescription pain relievers including opiates were given to troops in 2009. This represents an 86 percent increase from 2001.
The Toll Of War Goes Well Beyond The Wounds You Can See
Commonly prescribed medications for troops are:
- Painkillers such as Vicodin or OxyContin
- Benzodiazepines such as Klonopin
- Prescription sleep aids such as Ambien
- Stimulants to stay awake
The ravages of war can take a toll physically, psychologically, mentally and emotionally. Troops seek treatment for a wide range of disorders including: chronic pain, depression, insomnia, anxiety and mood disorders. Many suffer from serious conditions such as lost limbs, traumatic brain injuries, anger and rage. Degenerative conditions such as arthritis are also a threat for troops due to the wear and tear of the battlefield.
Prescription Drugs Can Interfere Negatively Together And With Alcohol
Another danger is the possibility of drug interactions and overdose. Toxic and possibly deadly combinations have led to a growing number of overdoses among troops. Many of the medications being prescribed have similar effects that can cause a fatal overdose if combined. For instance, opiates, sedatives, hypnotics and muscle relaxers can all depress the central nervous system. Taking any of them together can hamper breathing and cause death.
The use of alcohol is another problem because combining a few drinks with some of these medications can also lead to overdose.
Troops May Realize Their Problems Run Deeper Than They Thought Possible
VA clinics around the country are scrambling to treat the fallout of a years-long war. The stress and horrors of battle trickle down and can negatively affect a person’s marriage, other relationships, careers and futures.
Nervous breakdowns, mental problems and suicide are other problems that must be dealt with. The good news is that appropriate treatment can help men and women go on to live healthy, productive lives.