Prescription medication dependence and overdoses may be a more formidable foe for soldiers returning from combat than previously believed.
Recent articles exploring fatalities related to prescription drug use among soldiers returning from war in the Middle East indicates that at least 40 percent may have been living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These soldiers are then treating the symptoms associated with the illness with prescribed medications that have a high potential for addiction, like opioids.
Also capturing national interest is information that soldiers returning from war who have PTSD had a significantly higher likelihood to receive a prescription for an opioid than those who didn’t have the mental illness. Furthermore, the nature of PTSD may intensely complicate the likelihood of misuse or overdose of prescription pain medications, says a recent Statesman article.
PTSD can affect anyone who has experienced trauma or intense danger, ranging from childhood abuse to natural disasters or experiences in combat. Symptoms of PTSD may also overlap with symptoms of other mental illnesses, which can complicate diagnosis.
This can include anxiety, chronic depression, lack of hope, strong feelings of shame and problems with family relationships or maintaining a job. Feelings of physical pain may also be present, and many veterans returning from war may receive opiate prescriptions for injuries that can even mask underlying symptoms of PTSD.
Additional research shows they may also have a higher tendency to abuse alcohol or other substances, which can be fatal when combined with prescription medications.
Some experts have called soldiers returning from combat a "vulnerable" group who may have a higher risk for addiction or dependency on prescription medications. As many as 25 percent of soldiers returning from recent wars are believed to have symptoms related to PTSD.
When opiate medications are prescribed for pain, the effects can overlap between physical symptoms and emotional-based symptoms, further complicating the identification and treatment for PTSD.