“Vets prone to drug addiction get risky painkillers” AP Story

I am very interested in the plight of Vets returning from our wars.

I am watching  very closely the stats on the number of TBI’s (traumatic brain injuries)

and how well our country is handling the care of these  people who made sacrifices for us.

My sister sent this article. It is very disturbing and once again,

proves we need SO much more information available about

addiction and trauma.

I have a relative that is a psychiatrist with the VA and funding just keeps getting cut.

He is placed in a position of just pushing a pencil on a prescription pad

in an effort to relieve pain, or stress or trauma in the most expedient way.

Many vets take the  meds and run and never come back in for talk therapy.

They leave on the road  to addiction.

What are we leaving in the wake of these wars?

Are we going to step up and take care of these men and women?

Are we going to do the right thing?

I hope so…

Peace,   I pray for Peace…   Jen

Mar 6, 8:33 PM EST

Vets prone to drug addiction get risky painkillers

AP Medical Writer

CHICAGO (AP) — Morphine and similar powerful painkillers are sometimes prescribed to recent war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress along with physical pain, and the consequences can be tragic, a government study suggests.These vets are at high risk for drug and alcohol abuse, but they’re two times more likely to get prescriptions for addictive painkillers than vets with only physical pain, according to the study, billed as the first national examination of the problem. Iraq and Afghanistan vets with PTSD who already had substance abuse problems were four times more likely to get these drugs than vets without mental health problems, according to the study.Subsequent suicides, other self-inflicted injuries, and drug and alcohol overdoses were all more common in vets with PTSD who got these drugs. These consequences were rare but still troubling, the study authors said.

The results underscore the challenge of treating veterans with devastating physical injuries and haunting memories of the horrors of war. But the findings also suggest that physicians treating these veterans should offer less risky treatment, including therapies other than drugs, the study authors and other experts say.

Opium-based drugs like morphine and hydrocodone can dull excruciating physical pain. Relatively few veterans are prescribed such drugs. But some doctors likely prescribe them for vets who also have mental pain “with the hope that the emotional distress that accompanies chronic pain will also be reduced. Unfortunately, this hope is often not fulfilled, and opioids can sometimes make emotional problems worse,” said Michael Von Korff, a chronic illness researcher with Group Health Research Institute, a Seattle-based health care system. He was not involved in the study.

The research involved all veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan wars who were diagnosed with non-cancer physical pain from October 2005 through December 2010 – or 141,029 men and women. Half of them also were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health problems.

The results were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The Department of Veterans Affairs paid for the study, which is based on VA health care data.

Lead author Dr. Karen Seal, who treats patients at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, said she sometimes prescribes opiates for war vets, but only if other painkillers don’t work, and only in collaboration with non-drug treatment from mental health experts, occupational therapists and other specialists.

That type of approach is part of a VA pain management policy adopted in 2009, toward the end of the study period.

Dr. Robert Kerns, the VA’s national program director for pain management, said the study “draws attention to growing concerns” about the use of opiate painkillers in veterans. These drugs may have a role in treating chronic pain in vets but only as part of a comprehensive pain management plan, he said.

In a written statement about the study, the VA said its pain management approach has been cited as a model of care, but that “we recognize that more work needs to be done.”

Retired Lt. Col. Steve Countouriotis, a 30-year Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, says that after returning home a few years ago, he received a morphine prescription for war-related back and shoulder pain. He refused to take it and used aspirin instead.

“I don’t feel comfortable taking those kinds of medicines,” said Countouriotis, 60, of Petaluma, Calif. “I don’t like mood-altering drugs.” He said he doesn’t have PTSD, but that some colleagues who do have also been given the drugs.

Doctors are too quick to prescribe them, Countouriotis said, adding, “It’s too many, too soon.”

Army data provided to The Associated Press last year showed that referrals for opiate abuse among soldiers rose during the decade that ended in 2009, and totaled more than 670 between October 2009 and June 2010.

Some vets in the new study got the drugs from overburdened primary care physicians outside the VA health system.

“Imagine primary care doctors getting about 20 minutes to see a patient expressing high levels of distress,” because of war-related physical and mental trauma, said Seal, the study author. The balance between providing pain relief while being cautious with drugs that can be habit-forming “is always in play,” she said.

In the study, 15,676 vets received opiate prescriptions for physical pain. These prescriptions went to almost 18 percent of vets with PTSD and 12 percent of those with other mental health problems, compared with about 7 percent of vets without those problems.

Among those with PTSD, subsequent self-inflicted injuries, including suicides, occurred in 3 percent of vets who got the drugs, versus 2 percent who didn’t receive those prescriptions. The study doesn’t provide a breakdown of suicides vs. nonfatal self-injuries.

The study “brings much needed attention to the complexity of this problem,” said Dr. William Becker, a Yale University instructor and primary care physician who treats substance abuse and has worked with veterans.

“Patients are typically younger individuals who are in many cases kind of struggling to find their feet again” after returning home from war, he said. The ideal treatment includes behavioral counseling, therapy for war wounds and management of chronic pain.

“The word is spreading and I think this paper is going to send another strong message that this has really got to become the standard of care,” Becker said.


JAMA: http://www.jama.ama-assn.org

PTSD: http://1.usa.gov/ftZKFP

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about ourPrivacy Policy and Terms of Use.

~ by Step On a Crack on March 7, 2012.

17 Responses to ““Vets prone to drug addiction get risky painkillers” AP Story”

  1. Wow this is just something… I didn’t know this.


  2. thanks for a great post. When are we going to realize that our vets (Canadian and American) need specialized care. If we’re going to ask people to kill for us, they deserve the very best in care when they return – and they will need it.


    • Louise, Thank you for being here!

      YES! We need a multinational review of this issue. We got into this together, we should help our soldiers together too. We have the Geneva Convention. Why not something similar for returning soldiers? It is the very least we can do.

      TBI’s are on the rise, suicide is off the charts for returning Vets. This is a travesty.


  3. This is so sadly unsurprising. Ironic – I almost made a comment on your comment about comparison consolation re: vets and how I think the fact that we’ve (you and I) grown up with so much war on TV that it’s desensitized our generation to much of the pain vets experience.
    A news clip becomes as remote as the control buried under the cushion.


    • YES! I thought about that too!
      I felt my rant comment was going on too long as it was. You are so right.
      We showed our son photos of the Vietnam War in a very appropriate way. He has friends who play war games that are VERY graphic and we wanted him to know that, though due to the embedding of journalists, we are not getting a REAL look at these wars, that they are REAL wars. I remember watching the war play out before my eyes as a kid; being worried my cousins might have to go fight. I remember and I became a pacifist because of it. The news clips we do see are totally controlled by the government now. Sad.


  4. A friend of mine works with Vets in Toronto. She is not happy.


  5. After all they have seen and done, one would hope it would get better when they get home then to find there are more battles to fight these ones more difficult to overcome and maybe can’t be fixed only managed. Heartwrenching.


    • YES!

      I knew a lot of Vietnam vets when I worked in the anti-nuke movement. They were so damaged and so mad. I hear from the VA hospitals that the vets coming home today are MORE damaged than the vets from Vietnam AND the funding is being slashed for their care. It is a war crime the way we treat our returning warriors.


  6. And LSD is a cure for alcoholism… What a world!


  7. Hi Jen,

    My dad was a Vietnam Vet, 19 in the jungle and sprayed with Agent Orange. Anyone say PTSD? Alcoholism? Drug addiction? Needless to say that the Government back then denied the Vets any support or assistance – not to mention recognition.

    Even today there is an unspoken rule about the Vietnam Vets and their children.

    Unfortunately my dad was one of the ones that didn’t make it past 40 – fortunately, he was able to have his psychiatric records place blame for his psychosis on the war. Doctors couldn’t save him, but the Government (American and Australian) made sure that my mother was recognized as a war widow and receives the pension.

    Unfortunately I don’t think anything has changed – governments are just getting better at hiding the truth.

    Thanks for raising the awareness.



    • Thank goodness they HAD records your family could use! I am SO sorry for your loss. I can not imagine the pain of such a loss.

      I agree 100%! I think we now have ’embedded journalists’ so we do NOT hear the truth about our wars. I have many friends who are journalists and they are distraught at what they see and how hard it is to report on it. They get shuttled off to a platoon building schools full well knowing that the platoon 2 villages over are using drones that are killing civilians. It is a mess, a tragic mess.

      Peace, really. I just wish for peace….



      • Hi Jen,
        It sounds like you know a fair bit about what is going on – don’t get me started on conspiracy theories. 😉

        Regarding my father – he is at peace now and he succeeded in knowing that my mother would be looked after when he died. It could have been worse – he nearly took my mother with him. So it is bitter sweet.



  8. This is nothing new. My father is a Vietnam Vet and he was a test bunny for Xanax. At that time, 10mg was a standard dose. Seriously? Suddenly, they deemed that he was “addicted” and didn’t even bother to ween him off of it.

    Because he was such a lab rat to the VA, he spent a lot of my childhood completely absent. And, in my teens, he was more than a force to be reckoned with.

    Sadly, that’s the way. I really think we should be doing a better job handling our vets with better care. I’ve seen the VA hospital and their work. Talk about second class care! Puh!


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