Vets with PTSD were more likely to take higher doses and more than one painkiller than mentally healthy vets. They were also more likely than the others to take sedatives and to refill their prescriptions early, the researchers noted.
"This indicates to us that they may be using their pain medication faster than prescribed and be self-medicating," Seal said.
Also, veterans with PTSD who also abused drugs were much more likely to be prescribed narcotic painkillers than those without mental health problems, the study found.
Jennifer Vasterling, chief of psychology at the VA Boston Healthcare System and professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, said that this study highlights the potent combination of PTSD and pain.
"The paper reinforces that the detrimental effects of war-zone trauma and PTSD are far-reaching, extending beyond emotional symptoms to negatively impact other aspects of health and functioning," Vasterling said.
The poor results associated with increased prescription painkiller use have "significant implications for the clinical management of pain in military veterans with PTSD and pain," Vasterling added.
Another expert, Simon Rego, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, said the study findings are troubling. "Veterans with PTSD are also known to have high rates of substance use disorders, and treatment with opioids among patients with mental health problems is thought to exacerbate substance abuse and worsen mental health problems over time," he said.
It's possible that veterans with mental health problems, particularly PTSD, find barriers to mental health treatment and often use V
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