An unfortunate part of participating in the Armed Services is the risk of experiencing physical injury as a result of combat or military operations. Many soldiers have complications dealing with their pain after they become injured, which can lead to a doctor or physician prescribing an opioid medication. Even though these types of medications can help relieve pain, many soldiers find themselves misusing their prescriptions as a result of underlying psychological problems, often leading to the development of an addiction.
The Dangers of Opioid Drug Prescriptions and PTSD
According to U.S. Medicine over 140,000 soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from physical pain. Of that population, 11 percent is currently prescribed opioids, and many soldiers with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) take more opioids than necessary. Having both PTSD and a prescription for opioids can cause many dangers for a solider, including the following:
- Self-medication – Being a soldier with PTSD can be emotionally painful. Not only can soldiers become overwhelmed with flashbacks and emotions related to time overseas, but they can also begin experiencing depression and anxiety. Both can become so overwhelming that soldiers are more likely to misuse their opioid prescriptions to alleviate the psychological pain.
- Overdose potential – Opioid prescriptions are some of the most dangerous drugs as they can be easy to overdose on. Soldiers experiencing emotional pain from PTSD may begin taking more opioids than normal and taking the drugs at a faster pace, especially when events such as anniversaries, funerals and other gatherings occur. The recurring memories from traumatic events can spark the need to use more than normal, often leading to an overdose.
- Addiction development – Opioid drug prescriptions are extremely addictive, even if a doctor has prescribed them. Using opioids on a daily basis can increase a soldier’s tolerance, making the soldier crave more of the drug to achieve the desired effect. When PTSD is involved, soldiers become more likely to display these types of behaviors.
For these reasons, a soldier suffering from PTSD who is prescribed opioid medications can easily suffer the consequences of misusing pain medications.
Hundreds of thousands of soldiers face PTSD on a daily basis, and an addiction to prescription opioids only complicates the issue. By getting treatment for PTSD first, soldiers can begin a controlled medication regiment that benefits them. They can still receive treatment for any physical pain, but they must be educated on the dangers of painkillers to prevent the development of an addiction in the future.