(This is a piece I just did for the Drug Truth Network. I'll post a link to the audio file when it's available.)
An old friend once wrote, If someone you love can't sleep, drug them.
Veterans Administration hospitals seem to be following his advice, and not in a good way. At least that seems to be the conclusion of researchers who looked into treatment of American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
According to a report in the March 7, 2012 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, veterans diagnosed with a pain condition who were also diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder were nearly three times as likely to receive opiate pain medicines as those with a pain diagnosis who did not have a diagnosis of a mental health disorder. These vets with both PTSD and pain diagnoses were 1.5 times as likely to be prescribed opiate pain meds as vets diagnosed with both pain and a mental health disorder other than PTSD.
Further, veterans with PTSD and pain were more likely to receive higher-dose opioids, to receive two or more opioids concurrently, to receive sedative hypnotics concurrently, and to obtain early opioid refills. These patients also faced an increased risk of quote “adverse clinical outcomes” end quote.
We also know that vets with PTSD are already at high risk for substance abuse.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies are researching the effectiveness of the drug ecstasy, otherwise known as MDMA, in treating PTSD among vets. Their efforts are making progress, slowly yet surely. No matter how we may feel about the wars our politicians wage, we all owe it to our veterans to help them recover from their wounds and their experiences and to provide them effective therapy, rather than just tranquilizing them and keeping them out of the way.
For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay with Common Sense for Drug Policy.