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Antidepressant Use Soars Among Deployed
Stars and Stripes | June 12, 2008For the first time in history, a sizable and growing number of U.S. combat troops are taking daily doses of antidepressants to calm nerves strained by repeated and lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a report in Time Magazine.
In its June 16 cover story, the magazine reports that the medicines are intended not only to help troops keep their cool but also to enable the already strapped Army to preserve its most precious resource: soldiers on the front lines.
Citing the Army’s fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report, using an anonymous survey of U.S. troops taken last fall, Time wrote that about 12 percent of combat troops in Iraq and 17 percent of those in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them cope.
Escalating violence in Afghanistan and the more isolated mission have driven troops to rely more on medication there than in Iraq, military officials told Time.
The Army estimates that authorized drug use splits roughly fifty-fifty between troops taking antidepressants -- largely the class of drugs that includes Prozac and Zoloft -- and those taking prescription sleeping pills such as Ambien, Time wrote.
The magazine noted that the high number of soldiers on antidepressants is mirrored by that of the general population.
Time also reported that there are sharp divisions among military physicians: Some have said that the effects of using such prescriptions on soldiers in war zones are not adequately understood, while others contend that using prescriptions for mild depression symptoms avoids costly removals of soldiers from the fight.
PTSD Influences Levels Of Depression And Pain
Patients with accident or trauma related chronic pain often have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. What isn't clearly known, however, is how PTSD relates to mood disorders and pain severity in chronic pain patients.
University of Michigan researchers examined the contribution of PTSD to the pain experience, functional disability and frequency of depressive symptoms. They studied 241 patients referred to the university hospital's pain rehabilitation program who reported their pain began after a traumatic injury. The subjects completed the McGill Pain Questionnaire and were administered the Pain Disability Index and the Post-traumatic Chronic Pain Test.
Results showed PTSD and depression are significantly correlated and both disorders are associated with perceived disability attributed to chronic pain. Therefore, in cases of disabling accident-related chronic pain with comorbid depression, symptoms of PTSD may be critical to understanding both disorders. The authors concluded that increased attention to treating PTSD as a primary focus in the rehabilitation of patients with chronic pain and comorbid depression is important when prior treatment efforts for pain and depression have not been successful.
American Pain Society
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