Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder are more likely to be prescribed opioid pain killers than other veterans with pain problems and more likely to use the opioids in risky ways, according to a study published by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, also found that veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who were prescribed opioids for pain – and particularly those with post-traumatic stress disorder — had a higher prevalence of “adverse clinical outcomes,” like overdoses, self-inflicted injuries and injuries caused by accidents or fighting.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense have for years been trying to reduce the use of opioid pain therapy among active duty troops and veterans amid reports of overmedication, addiction, rampant drug abuse and accidental deaths caused by overdoses or toxic mixing of medications.
If you are a veteran or have a loved one who is a veteran, please consider alternatives to opioid therapy, particularly with PTSD patients.
Understanding the potential links between post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain is important because both are common among service members. By some estimates, one in five combat veterans report symptoms of PTSD, which can include nightmares, flashbacks, irritability and sleeplessness.
Chronic pain is also prevalent among troops and veterans, even those who have not experienced major battlefield injuries, like the loss of a limb. Lower back, knee, shoulder and other joint pains are common because of the routine physical stresses of the work, including wearing heavy body armor and packs.
More and more veterans with chronic pain problems are willing to try alternative pain therapies. Veterans know other veterans who have had problems and they don’t want to get hooked on narcotics. So there is great openness to treating pain with therapies other than opiates.
Massachusetts Veterans or families of veterans, for more information on management of chronic pain, please contact Franklin Pain and Wellness Center.
Excerpts from International News Network