Monday, July 11, 2011

Shades of Soviets in Afghanistan: Addicted Soldiers in US

Very sad report that

Faced with rising abuse of prescription drugs, the Army has limited how many painkillers a soldier can get at one time and is threatening disciplinary action for troops caught violating the restriction.

Army data requested by The Associated Press shows the number of soldiers referred for opiate abuse treatment has been growing steadily for at least a decade, a time when increasing numbers of troops have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with combat or training injuries that can cause chronic pain. The Veterans Administration says more than 50 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans report pain issues as they leave active duty military service.

The Army put limits on painkillers in November by restricting most Schedule II controlled substances, which include narcotics, opiates and amphetamines, to just 30-day prescriptions. Previously, some prescriptions had been available for 60 or 90 days and the average was 40 days. The policy makes an exception for medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and it affects anyone who fills a prescription at an Army hospital or pharmacy, including military spouses, children and retirees.

In June, the Army followed with a policy that soldiers found using the restricted drugs six months after they were prescribed could be disciplined, too. The force carries out random drug tests among active duty soldiers.

Col. Carol W. Labadie, the pharmacy consultant and pharmacy program manager for the Army Surgeon General, said the changes are intended to improve medication safety and encourage soldiers to see their doctors more often if they are having chronic pain.

"In today's society, more prescriptions are getting written and abuse is high across the world, whether it is the military or the civilian side," she said.

According to Army data provided to AP, referrals for opiate abuse increased from 87 in fiscal year 1998-99 to 703 referrals in fiscal year 2008-09. There were more than 670 referrals from October 2009 through June 2010, the latest figures available. Opiates include common pain drugs such as oxycodone, sold under the brand name Oxycontin, and hydrocodone, also known as Vicodin.


To comment on this is not to point a finger at soldiers returning home, scarred and injured as a result of their service and in need of finding comfort however they can.  But one can't help remembering how badly the Soviet Union was afflicted - and Russia continues to be - by the thousands of Soviet soldiers who returned home from combat and occupation duty in Afghanistan, addicted to heroin and other drugs.  More than one observer has cited the consequent damage to Russian society as a significant factor constributing to the Soviet defeat in the Cold War.

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