Prescription painkiller use up in military

March 17, 2010 at 6:00 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 17 (UPI) -- The number of prescriptions for painkillers written by U.S. military doctors has increased dramatically since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, officials say.

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., plans to hold hearings next week on the issue, USA Today reports. He said the Air Force, Army and Navy surgeons generals will testify.

"I would really like to dig down in the data here and get their thoughts about what is driving this," he said.

The Pentagon reported 3.8 million prescriptions were written in 2009. In 2001, military doctors handed out 866,773 doses.

Webb, who served in the Marines in Vietnam, said much of the increase is likely legitimate. Soldiers who have been put through repeated deployments have suffered combat injuries and also the physical wear and tear of carrying heavy equipment.

But the Pentagon has also found soldiers have a higher rate of prescription drug abuse than the public, with 25 percent of those questioned for a 2008 survey admitting they had abused them at some point in the previous year.

Assistant Army Secretary Thomas Lamont told a Senate subcommittee last week the Army is reviewing its policies on pain treatment. He said each medical facility now sets its own standards.

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