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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Veterans Stop Medications Without Doctor Consent

A number of veterans who suffer from a host of ailments linked to their tours in combat have taken it upon themselves to stop taking the heavy amounts of prescription narcotics that their doctors prescribed for them, without consulting their doctors, according to NPR. Many veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a debilitating illness which can leave some incapable of working and being present for their families, this problem is often exacerbated by depression and pain.

Veterans who turn to their doctor for help are, more often than not, prescribed painkillers and sedatives to treat their issues. Service men and women are prescribed narcotic painkillers three times more often than civilians, according to the article. One in three veterans says they are on 10 different medications.

The fact of the matter is that treating disorders like PTSD is extremely difficult and requires countless hours of cognitive behavioral therapy for progress to be seen. After close to 15 years of war the VA is not equipped to handle the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have come home and require treatment. In many cases doctors are left with no other alternative but to over medicate to compensate for the lack of treatment options available.

Many doctors prescribe drugs off-label for conditions other than the ones approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This is why it not uncommon to see veterans with PTSD who are physically healthy, but are being prescribed drugs like oxycodone on top of their antipsychotics and sedatives.

In an attempt to reduce the use of opioids among veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) initiated an Opioid Safety Initiative. Gavin West, who heads the initiative, told NPR, “We’ve undertaken a psychopharmacologic safety initiative, where we’re looking across the board at more safe and more effective use of medications.”

Despite rampant over-prescribing taking place throughout VA hospitals, it is important to point out that ceasing your medications without consulting a doctor is never safe, especially if one has been on a particular drug long term. Suddenly halting one's medication can lead to withdrawal with opioids and life threatening seizures with benzodiazepines, talk to your doctor before you make the move.

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