War vets with PTSD apt to get painkillers

March 7, 2012 at 9:01 PM   |   Comments

SAN FRANCISCO, March 7 (UPI) -- Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans with mental health diagnoses were more likely to receive prescription opioids for pain, U.S. researchers said.

Dr. Karen H. Seal of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and colleagues examined the association between mental health disorders and patterns of opioid -- such as morphine -- prescription use among a national sample of 141,029 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

The study included veterans who received at least one non-cancer-related pain diagnosis within one year of entering the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system from October 2005 through December 2010.

Of the veterans in the study, 11 percent were prescribed opioids for 20 or more consecutive days compared with 6.5 percent of veterans without a mental health diagnosis.

"Similarly, in the whole population of 291,205 veterans with and without pain diagnoses, 12.3 percent with PTSD and 7.3 percent with mental health diagnoses excluding PTSD were independently more likely to receive opioids than the 2.7 percent of veterans without mental health diagnoses who received opioids for pain," the study authors said in a statement.

Regarding the risk of adverse clinical outcomes, receiving prescription opioids versus not getting opioids was associated with an increased risk for all veterans -- 9.5 percent versus 4.1 percent, which was most pronounced in veterans with PTSD, the study said.

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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