Prescription drug abuse is common among active military and veterans who experience the effects of combat. Injuries sustained in battle often result in pain that only a prescribed treatment can help, but with comfort comes the true addictive nature of these drugs.
Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse
Hiding pills and bottles is common, but there are several telltale signs that many who abuse drugs have. These include several physical and mental symptoms such as:
- Red or watery eyes
- Facial sores
- Sudden weight loss
- Abnormal mood swings
- Excessive sleepiness
- Reduced social activity
- Erratic behavior responses
- Secretive activities
Causes of Prescription Drug Abuse
While combat exposure and injury during battle are the most common causes of prescription drug abuse, there are other reasons why someone might start abusing them, including:
Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs Among Active Military, Veterans, and First Responders
There are three different classes of prescription drugs that are more commonly abused: opioids, central nervous system depressants, and stimulants.
Opioids are used to reduce feelings of pain by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body.
They are commonly used to treat moderate to severe pain. Due to their nature, they are habit forming and are commonly available to active military members and veterans who have suffered from combat wounds.
The more commonly abused forms of opioid drugs include:
- Diphenoxylate (Lomotil®)
- Fentanyl (Duragesic®)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid®)
- Meperidine (Demerol®)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin®)
- Oxymorphone (Opana®)
- Propoxyphene (Darvon®)
- Morphine (Kadian®, MS Contin®)
Central nervous system depressants, also known as CNS depressants, sedatives, or tranquilizers, are substances that are used to slow brain activity. Due to this, they’re commonly used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Benzodiazepines are among the most addictive, with active military and veterans who use them often building up tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
The most common forms of Benzodiazepines include:
- Alprazolam (Xanax®)
- Diazepam (Valium®)
- Triazolam (Halcion®)
- Estazolam (ProSom®)
Stimulants are used to increase alertness, energy, and attention. They commonly increase heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure, and are often prescribed to those who have ADHD, narcolepsy, and depression. Active military and veterans who experience depression due to their experiences in combat are often prescribed these, but due to their addictive nature they are often abused.
Here are the most common forms of stimulants:
- Amphetamines (Adderall®)
- Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®)
- Methylphenidate (Ritalin®)
Why do Active Military Members, Veterans, and First Responders Abuse Prescription Drugs?
Active military and veterans often deal with combat exposure which not only affects their mental state but also physically if they are injured in combat. Due to their effectiveness, doctors usually prescribe prescription drugs in order to help calm the pain that they are experiencing. However, due to their nature, prescription drugs are commonly abused.