April 27, 2010

Overmedication Of Troops Concerns Medical Officers

Lieutenant General Eric Schoomaker, the U.S. Army's top medical officer, is worried that soldiers who are returning from Iraq or Afghanistan are being overmedicated.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Schoomaker said that he believed that the use of prescription pain medication by soldiers coming home following combat duty was not disproportional to the use of similar medicine by civilians. However, he noted that the military was tracking prescription drug use by troops and that they were definitely "concerned about over-medication."

"We're very concerned about the panoply of drugs that are being used and the numbers of drugs that are being used," he said, according to an April 26 AFP article. "We are monitoring it very, very closely."

Schoomaker's comments come following a March report by Military Times, which discovered a serious rise in prescription psychiatric and pain medicines for service men and women since 2001.

According to that report, the AFP says, one out of every six soldiers are on psychiatric drugs, and a Pentagon report conducted in 2008 found that 15-percent of troops admitted to abusing prescription medication within a one-month span.

"Pinpointing the reasons for broad shifts in the military's drug use today is difficult. Each doctor prescribes medications for the patient's individual needs," staff writers Andrew Tilghman and Brendan McGarry said in their March 17 article. "Nevertheless, many doctors in and outside the military point to several variables--some unique to the military, some not."

"A close look at the data shows that use of the antipsychotic and anticonvulsant drugs, also known as 'mood stabilizers,' are growing much faster than antidepressants," they added. "That may correlate to the challenges that deployed troops face when they arrive back home and begin to readjust to civilian social norms and family life."

Possible alternatives being considered by Schoomaker and other military officials include "yoga, meditation, acupuncture, movement therapy, lots of other ways of approaching pain management," according to what he told the AFP on Monday.


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