Prescription drug abuse has skyrocketed among American soldiers in recent years, and this article out of North Carolina discusses some of the many casualties associated with the huge spike in opiate painkillers in the Fayetteville area since the country went to war more than a decade ago.
A Fayetteville Observer analysis of state and county records found that opiate painkillers contributed to 95 deaths in Cumberland County between 2008 and 2011, more than the previous eight years combined, according to the article. In the counties surrounding Fort Bragg — Hoke, Harnett, Lee, Moore and Cumberland — prescription opiates have been a contributing factor in at least 395 deaths since 2000, the article says.
Moreover, more oxycodone — the main ingredient in Percocet and other addictive painkillers — was sold at pharmacies in the Fayetteville area than anywhere else in North Carolina in 2011, according to the article, while the sale of hydrocodone ranked third-highest in the state.
And painkiller sales during the past decade — when the VA saw an influx of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans — spiked at higher than average rates around towns with military bases and large Veterans Affairs hospitals, the article says: in 2001, the Fayetteville VA prescribed hydrocodone to 1,130 patients; last year, that number soared to 47,586 patients — an increase of 4,100% in 11 years. Nationally, hydrocodone prescriptions rose by 56% from 2001 to 2011.
Earlier this year, a compilation of federal data showed that the military has spent $1.6 billion on painkillers over the last decade, while $2.7 billion has been spent on anti-depressants and more than $507 million on sleep medications such as Ambien.