Charge of Soldiers Being Overmedicated

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In one of the many tragedies to come out of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, it’s now being alleged that some wounded soldiers are being over medicated, and in some cases get addicted to pain and other meds. The story, from NPR, covers a known problem with the military medical system and one the army is having difficulty addressing.

In each division of the active army, one battalion is set aside as a “wounded warrior battalion.” This unit is where those receiving medical treatment are assigned until they either heal enough to return to their regular unit, or are processed out of the military because of their injury. It’s a temporary posting, but here temporary can be several months. During that time, soldiers are supposed to be stabilized on any medication they will need long term and learn to use any prosthetics they may have.

The story tells of a system where doctors over-prescribe medications, partly because of a lack of oversight and partly because of case mismanagement. Some soldiers were receiving multiple types of the same drugs or extremely high doses of addictive substances. Anxiety and anti-depressant medications are common, but interactions with pain medications aren’t always monitored closely. Unlike the civilian system of drug distribution, the military isn’t monitored by state agencies and only loosely regulated by the FDA and DEA – they have their own set of rules, and these rules may be too lax.

According to the story, Pentagon investigators reported patterns of over-medication and of Marines addicted to pain medications at Camp Lejeune's Wounded Warrior Battalion. Since most such units are run the same way, this was just one indication that a systemic problem existed.

“Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican from North Carolina and a member of the Armed Services Committee, pushed for the Pentagon investigation, after talking to Marines like Pennington [who was doubled up on a medication].
"We've got a serious problem, and we need to find out how we can deal with this problem," Jones says. "These young men and women ... are dependent on this medication. We need more oversight within the military, in my opinion."

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