Veterans Kicking Off-Label Doctor Approved Prescriptions
For many men and women who have served in the military, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a daily part of their life. Oftentimes their doctors will prescre them appropriate medications to manage the pain, but some doctors are also medicating these veterans with psych drugs that they have no business taking.
Medications designed for major disorders are being used off label, or not in a way in which the drug was intended, according to research by the Director of the Psychopharmacology Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College. “The veterans [sic] had unprecedented levels of stress in a group of otherwise healthy people” so the military uses drugs to keep their service people functioning during wartime or retain them longer for active duty. Antipsychotics like Seroquel and stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin can keep our men and women lucid enough for duty – but at what cost? Friedman compared it to giving wounded football players painkillers to finish the game only to later have more severe, long term issues.
Though the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Pentagon have safeguards against over-prescribing, as well as guidelines that warn about off label use of medication, the practice remains in effect by well-meaning doctors. A study conducted by the Institute of Medicine, concluded that doctors do a poor job of tracking veterans with PTSD who are prescribed drugs. The report did note, however, that there is an effort by the VA to further educate their doctors. The head of the Opioid Safety Initiative at the VA, Gavin West, has stated that a psychopharmacological safety initiative has been implemented for “more safe and more effective use of medications.”
Veterans Just Say No
One in three veterans who were polled has stated they are currently taking up to ten different medications to deal with a plethora of medical and psychological issues. Some veterans are even taking 20 or more pills a day. And now they’re saying enough is enough. One six-year veteran, Leo Kalberg, knew he was getting hooked on Percocet because he got nervous when his prescription was getting low. The side effects made him feel like a zombie, where a whole day would pass him by and then he would finally get off the couch to go to bed. He then stopped taking his drugs without letting his doctors know. In a similar story, 15-year USAF veteran, Nancy Bryant stopped taking her medications because she had the stomach flu and realized she felt like a different person when she was off the pills. When she started researching her medication she realized Seroquel was off labelled to help her sleep but its true purpose was for people with schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder.
Right or Wrong?
The rigors of war create a reality different from the one civilians live in. Maybe it’s best to drug our soldiers. Maybe it’s not. What is certain is that America should be doing its darndest to nurture those who volunteer to serve our country.
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