Monday, April 12, 2010

Legal Drugs Problematic for Military

A resent report showed that the number of prescriptions for pain killers and anti-depressants in the military has risen to record high levels. Last year the number reported was 360,000! That was up 70,000 from the year before. These numbers do not take into account the fact that many of our troops are also taking excessive quantities of over the counter pain killers such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

It is very easy to understand the reason behind these numbers. Our military has been engaged in shooting wars continuously for the past 8 years. Many of our troops are in their 3 and 4th tours of duty, meaning they have spend as much of half these past 8 years in combat environments! Personally, I think I’d want a prescription for something pretty strong of you asked me to drive up an IED laden Highway (and I’d probably empty the bottle when someone started shooting a machine gun or rocket propelled grenade in my direction!).

As understandable as all this is, the problem of addiction is something we must deal with. This problem carries over into civilian life as these men and women return to the United States and go on leave or are discharged. The Army has, in its usual efficient way, started addressing the problem. They have limited the number of pills on a prescription to 5 at a time so the troops can not overdose and have to return often for refills. I never stop being amazed by the stupidity of a bureaucratic mind.

These troops are going to need far more than limiting their legal supply of pills in dealing with the effects of several years on these types of drugs. I am sure that, in the event a solider or sailor starts showing signs of PTSD the military medical support will deal with any addiction that may be contributing to the problem. Unfortunately, that just ain’t going to cut it. Their approach is to wait until someone reports a problem before attacking it. That is just plain stupid.

This is the kind of thing where we need to be very proactive and put the specialists to work on the issue now, before we have all these heroes damaged from the experience of war and drugs.

The Pentagon and the Veterans Administration are both very aware of this developing problem. They should be taking the lead in protecting our troops from the damaging effects of drug addiction. They should not be waiting until problems are reported. Many of our people are going to come home and get into trouble with their families and friends –and with the law, before the military does anything about this. In the mean time the Pentagon is all too happy to keep our guys in the field with the aid of prescription drugs. Shame on them!

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