News

Study Shows Opiate Abuse by Some US Forces with Mental Disorders

Melinda Smith

The case against a U.S. soldier who is accused of killing 17 civilians in Afghanistan has focused attention on the mental health problems some soldiers experience after years of combat. War veterans with a condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, were twice as likely to be on high-risk drugs as those with no mental health issues.

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is the longest military conflict in American history. Many of the troops who have fought there also saw combat in Iraq. Doctors say at least one third returned with mental health problems.  

Dr. Michael Yochelson was part of a military medical team that assessed returning soldiers for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

"I think it's going to be really critical that those personnel are identified and get into therapies quickly," Yochelson said.

But what kind of therapies are most effective?  Researchers studied a group of more than 140,000 U.S. military veterans who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2005 and 2010, and who had been prescribed an opioid -- a narcotic -- within a year of getting a pain diagnosis at a veterans' hospital.

Dr. Karen Seal is a co-author of the study. "Veterans who had a mental health diagnosis, but particularly PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) were far more likely than their counterparts without mental health problems to receive opiate pain medication," Seal said.

Veterans with PTSD were 2 1/2 times more likely to be on these narcotics.  The researchers also were also concerned about the quantity of drugs prescribed.

"These patients tend to receive higher dose opiates than their counterparts and would request early refills of their opiates, which indicates that they are using them more quickly than they should be," Seal said.

Many of the veterans on these drugs -- whether they were mentally ill or not -- had higher rates of accidents, alcoholism, violent injuries, suicides and overdoses.  Seal says the findings demonstrate that alternative methods of treatment, such as physical therapy, talk therapy or acupuncture, should be offered more widely.

"The study really woke us up to the reality of the serious adverse consequences that can occur with the use of opiates in returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have pain and mental health problems," Seal said.

Yochelson says treating post-traumatic stress disorder will take more than a quick fix.  

"Frankly, if they've been on multiple deployments and perhaps been there for 12 or 18 months or longer, or even over a period of several years, several deployments and never had it addressed until now, I think that treatment period may be going on for several years and maybe indefinitely," Yochelson said.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: David
March 28, 2012 8:40 PM
These people who serve our nation are forced to live in an area where opium is the center of the economy and they use something that costs less than food. Who would have ever thought that could happen?

by: Ted Sebern
March 28, 2012 8:08 PM
What do you expect?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs