June 22, 2011
Men and women in the US military are more medicated than ever — and their doctors do not even know who takes what, The Daily reported Wednesday.
The Department of Defense does not keep track of medical prescriptions doled out to service members in combat, despite ongoing pleas from federal officials to do just that.
Last week, a report on the military’s 2012 budget from the House Appropriations Committee remarked that the prescription of pain management drugs is handled inconsistently, especially in battle.
The report also handed down an ultimatum: within two months of the budget’s approval, the committee wants concrete information on “the required steps and potential obstacles toward electronic transmission of prescription drug data.”
A 2010 US Army study found that 14 percent of soldiers had been prescribed an opiate painkiller, with 95 percent of those prescriptions for oxycodone, a notoriously-addictive pharmaceutical best known by the brand name OxyContin.
And since 2001, military spending on prescription medication has skyrocketed. Orders for antipsychotics like Seroquel are up 200 percent, and demand for anti-anxiety drugs like Valium has increased by 170 percent, according to Defense Logistics Agency records.
Many of the antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs and anti-anxiety drugs prescribed are highly addictive. Potential side effects include dulled reaction times, irritability and a heightened risk of suicide.
“The medications they use shouldn’t be so heavily prescribed in combat,” said Dr. Judith Broder, a psychiatrist and founder of the Soldiers Project, a nonprofit counseling service.
“But they can’t afford to send anyone home. They need the bodies — health and welfare are secondary,” she said.