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PTSD and Opioid Drug Prescriptions

PTSD and Opioid Drug PrescriptionsClinicians need to take caution when prescribing opioid drugs to patients with symptoms of pain. Individuals diagnosed with mental health disorders, most notably posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are far more likely to experience adverse effects or events when prescribed opioid drugs. The most commonly experienced adverse effects of prescription opioid use among individuals with PTSD include accidents, overdose, substance abuse, violent behavior, suicide attempts and general wounds and injuries. Studies of veterans reveal strong evidence for the dangers of prescribing opioid drugs to individuals with PTSD and other mental health disorders.

The Dangers of Prescribing Opioids to Individuals with PTSD

The Veterans Affairs records report that over 141,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been diagnosed with non-cancer pain. Among this population, 32% are diagnosed with co-occurring PTSD and 19% are diagnosed with some other psychiatric disorder. To treat the symptoms of physical or post-injury pain, medical professionals will often prescribe an opioid drug that acts as a pain reliever; however, this often leads to adverse psychological and behavioral effects in Veterans with co-occurring PTSD or psychiatric disorders. Veterans with PTSD are more likely to take higher opioid doses, combine two or more opioids, request early refills and purposely abuse or misuse their prescription.

Use and abuse of opioids is common in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder. When substance abuse and PTSD co-exist an individual is at high-risk for overdose and death. While opioid drugs can temporarily relieve physical pain and numb emotional trauma, victims of PTSD will return to the symptoms of the disorder once the drug wears off. PTSD is a complex physical, mental and emotional condition that requires intense comprehensive treatment. Without receiving treatment, individuals with PTSD that are prescribed opioid drugs are at high-risk for substance abuse, overdose, addiction and numerous adverse effects, including death.

Unfortunately, many individuals (especially veterans) who have experienced a traumatic event or brain trauma feel symptoms of physical pain. Clinicians are beginning to recognize physical (non-cancer) pain as a symptom of PTSD because of how often physical pain results from a trauma. Because of this, many individuals with PTSD or psychiatric disorders are given the opioid drug prescription despite the high-risk for adverse effects and self-medication.

Non-Opioid Treatment Options for PTSD and Pain

PTSD and physical pain do co-occur often and it is important that people know there are effective treatment options outside of opioid use. Integrated methods of treatment are especially effective, combining a variety of medical and behavioral therapies. Counseling, talk therapy, behavior therapy, pain management, physical therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, distress-tolerance, EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, support groups and medication are all non-opioid treatment options that can be used to help individuals overcome co-occurring physical pain and PTSD or other psychiatric disorders.

Where can I Learn More about Treatment Options for PTSD?

If you would like to learn more about your treatment options for PTSD and other co-occurring issues, like chronic pain, you can call our toll-free helpline. Our recovery professionals are available to assist you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Recovery professionals are happy to answer your questions, address your concerns and provide you with all the information you will ever need on treatment and recovery. If you are ready, we can help find and connect you with the treatment and recovery services that will work for you and your specific needs. To learn more, call and talk to a recovery professional today; we’re ready to help, however we can.