Volume 14 Issue 77

Numerous surveys, studies and self-described "aggressive initiatives" by the Armed Services in recent years have failed to relieve what is perceived as pervasive overprescribing of narcotic painkillers among United States military personnel.

Now, a 22-member Army task force, formed last year to examine how the military treats the pain of wounds and injury, has instructed the Pentagon to rethink pain treatment, including hiring and training more pain-management specialists and finding alternative methods of pain relief other than narcotics.

Narcotics are a huge problem, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to claim victims. The numbers of dependencies and addictions among troops is soaring, but non-medical, recreational abuse of painkillers has also become a big problem.

According to a USA Today report, the task force says the failure to provide consistent and coordinated pain relief to troops contributes to suicides and prescription drug abuse, and aggravates cases of mental illness and brain injury. Doctors are too easily prescribing narcotic painkillers, while the Army's "no pain, no gain" culture pushes troops to ignore injuries until pain becomes chronic.

But all this didn't just happen overnight. The military has been performing studies and surveys for years. Even Congress demanded changes in the approach to the military's pain management two years ago. Although proven and effective alternative treatments are widely available, such as Chiropractic, Acupuncture and others, little has been done except call for more studies.

For example, a USA Today report in March of this year said that in 2009, military doctors wrote nearly 3.8 million narcotic painkiller prescriptions - four times more than in 2001. The report quoted various military and political figures calling for and promising action. But two years earlier, in an almost identical story by the same reporter in the same newspaper, a completely different set of government and military officials said prescription drug abuse and addiction were rampant in the military, and called for action.

A Pentagon survey from 2008, finally made public this year, reveals that one out of every four American soldiers abused narcotic painkillers in the year before the survey, and 15 percent abused drugs within 30 days of the survey. Back in 2005, a survey found narcotic painkillers the most abused drug in the military, and the numbers of injured soldiers returning home suffering from addiction was out of control.

As we can see from all this, there is reason to doubt any immediate action will take place. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising if the Pentagon, in response to the task force, just calls for all sorts of new studies.

We don't need any more studies. We simply have to stop throwing addictive narcotics at every pain, and instead prescribe known, popular and effective alternative treatments, such as Chiropractic care. Only then will the drug abuse and addiction statistics start to come down.

SOURCES: USA TODAY, June 23, 2010,, and Novus Medical Detox Center Newsletter, March 21, 2010,

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