Saturday, August 30, 2014
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Unseen wounds: 'Psychotropic drugs often intensify the veterans' suffering and isolation.'

Do too many veterans get too many psychotropic drugs?

Unseen wounds: 'Psychotropic drugs often intensify the veterans' suffering and isolation.'

If you didn't have a chance, you might take a few minutes to read the cover story in the Inquirer's Currents section in Sunday's newspaper headlined, "Unseen wounds."

Here's a link.

The authors of the piece, David Sutherland and Paula J. Caplan, discuss the numerous challenges facing many veterans returning from battle, notably in Iraq and Afghanistan. They suggest four primary factors causes of the "emotional devastation and moral anguish that plague so many who have been to war."

They are very critical of the tendency of health-care providers to quickly dispense psychotropic drugs.

"Psychotropic drugs often intensify the veterans' suffering and isolation," they wrote.

Sutherland, a retired U.S. Army colonel and director of the Dixon Center, which teams with the Easter Seals to coordinate and provide community services for the military and veterans. Caplan is a Harvard University psychologist and author of "When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home: How All of Us Can Help Veterans."

Almost a year ago (Feb. 22, 2012), Assistant Secretary of Defense Dr. Jonathan Woodson sent a memo about post-traumatic stress disorder to all branches of the military, expressing that “the greatest concern is the suspicion of the over-prescription of antipsychotic medications for PTSD.”

A link to that PhillyPharma post is here.

More from Sutherland and Caplan:

"Once labeled with a mental illness, veterans are routinely prescribed cocktails of psychiatric drugs that alter in troubling ways their emotions and cognition. Tragically, the kinds of harm the drugs can cause include precisely those that are increasing among service members and veterans: suicide, family breakdown, substance abuse, and homelessness. Many senior Defense officials have voiced their concern about the dangerous effects of these drugs.

"There are many effective and nonpathologizing solutions to the epidemic problems destroying our war veterans. All of us - including the military, the VA, and mental-health professionals - must stop automatically labeling war veterans 'mentally ill.' Being shaken to the core by war is a deeply human reaction. Calling it mental disorder alienates veterans from themselves and their communities and causes moral anguish. It blinds civilians to veterans' pain and cuts civilians off from their common humanity with those who have gone to war.

"There are low-risk ways that community leaders or any citizen can help veterans heal, primarily helping them create or connect, which in turn will help their communities. Unlike drugs, these do not have dangerous side effects, and they could not differ more from the isolation intensified by labeling and drugging. These options include involving veterans in mentoring, volunteering, meditation, promoting the arts, sports and recreation, nonprofit leadership, and political action, and providing them service animals for connection and comfort. The recent "A Better Welcome Home" conference at Harvard Kennedy School's Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation featured several examples. (Visit http://bit.ly/OToAwc for more information.)"

 

 

David Sell
About this blog
David Sell blogs about the region's pharmaceutical industry. Follow him on Facebook.

For Inquirer.com. Portions of this blog may also be found in the Inquirer's Sunday Health Section.

Reach David at dsell@phillynews.com.

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