The official blog of American Veteran Magazine, the national quarterly publication of AMVETS.

Monday, December 21, 2009

New Concerns on Military Drug Abuse and Combat Stress

Last Wednesday, the Pentagon released a new report on the health and fitness of today's military, based on data collected from military health assessments.

"The 2008 survey indicates that the U.S. armed forces are generally strong, healthy, and ready to accomplish their mission," said Dr. Jack Smith, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for clinical policy and program policy. "We are pleased with the continued increase of healthy behaviors and preventive health practices reported by our service members."

While the overall fitness of the military remains positive, the report demonstrated a significant spike in prescription drug abuse by military personnel and increases in post-traumatic stress disorder diagnoses. In 2008, 12 percent of American military men and women reported misusing prescription drugs, up from five percent in 2005. Similarly, 11 percent of military personnel required follow-up for PTSD, up from seven percent in 2005.

The Pentagon attributed the spike in prescription drug abuse to more pointed questions on the subject. USA Today reporter Gregg Zoroya, however, reviewed the data and found a potential correlation between prescription drug abuse and combat stress issues such as PTSD.

To read Zoroya's story, Click Here.

The news from the Pentagon on prescription drug abuse and PTSD only reinforced AMVETS' concerns about combat stress. Earlier this week, AMVETS leaders called on the military to improve its PTSD screening and treatment processes in response to another increase in reported Army suicides.

A new Yale University study, commissioned by VA and the National Institutes of Health, demonstrated that the more than half of patients diagnosed with PTSD suffer from comorbid major depressive disorders such as alcoholism and substance abuse.

The Yale study also demonstrated that patients who suffer from such comorbid disorders exhibit different chemical changes in the brain from counterparts only suffering from PTSD.

In light of this week's developments, AMVETS leaders believe a clear correlation exists between increased prescription drug abuse in the military and PTSD, further demonstrating the need for improved screening and treatment within the ranks.

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