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Vets prone to drug addiction get risky painkillers

In this photo taken Monday, March 5, 2012, Steve Countouriotis, a Chief Emergency Services Command Officer, holds a model of a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter that he flew in Iraq, while posing in his office at the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Petaluma, Countouriotis, a 30-year Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, refused to take addictive drugs prescribed for his war-related back and shoulder pain, and says doctors should offer veterans less risky medication. He said he doesn't have PTSD, but that some colleagues who do have also been given the drugs. Doctors are too quick to prescribe them, Countouriotis said, adding,

Morphine and similar powerful painkillers are sometimes prescribed to recent war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress along with physical pain, and the consequences can be tragic, a government study suggests.

These vets are at high risk for drug and alcohol abuse, but they're two times more likely to get prescriptions for addictive painkillers than vets with only physical pain, according to the study, billed as the first national examination of the problem. Iraq and Afghanistan vets with PTSD who already had substance abuse problems were four times more likely to get these drugs than vets without mental health problems, according to the study.

Subsequent suicides, other self-inflicted injuries, and drug and alcohol overdoses were all more common in vets with PTSD who got these drugs. These consequences were rare but still troubling, the study authors said.
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