Mixing Prescription Drugs Claiming Lives of Veterans

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A recent study conducted by researchers from Rhode Island Hospital, Boston Medical Center and the Veteran Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System shows that close to half of veterans who died from drug overdoses were prescribed a combination of opioids and benzodiazepines. Oftentimes those in combat need to be treated for physical wounds and emotional distress, however the combination of benzodiazepines (oftentimes used to treat anxiety disorders) and prescription painkillers can be deadly. The study showed that there is an extreme amount of veterans that have passed away due to this combination.

“The risk of receiving both opioids and benzodiazepines during this six-year period was approximately four times higher than in those who received opioids alone. From a public health perspective, this is deeply troubling, because drug overdoses are a leading cause of death in the U.S. and prescribing benzodiazepines to patients taking opioids for pain is quite common,” explained Tae Woo Park, a doctor who was involved in the study.

It has become increasingly more prevalent for veterans to be prescribed these chemical cocktails, thus causing a very serious threat to their health. Common painkillers include Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin and many others. Brand-name benzos include Valium, Xanax and Klonopin.

Researchers hope that the study, which appeared in the BMJ, will enlighten medical professionals as well as the military community about the dangers of combining such powerful drugs. While it is clear that chronic pain and debilitating anxiety cannot be ignored, it does stand that more education and closer monitoring of the drug regimen should be enacted. Since there are now 44,000 deaths caused by overdose in the U.S., it is also a good idea for healthcare professionals to explore more options that don't involved potentially dangerous and addictive drugs, if possible.