About once every five days an active-duty service member is found dead of an accidental drug overdose, the Army Times reported.

This number roughly tripled since 2001.  And the number is more than twice as high if you add in intentional (suicide-related) overdoses.

Read more at:

Rx for Death: Troop Deaths Soar with Prescriptions for War Wounded

Military doctors often prescribe both opioids like methadone and oxycodone to treat pain and benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium to treat trauma-related anxiety.   The use of opioids and benzodiazepines together greatly increased the risk of a fatal drug overdose.

The Army Times article seemed to largely ignore the fact that many service members use pain killers and benzos without a prescription or in excess of prescribed amounts, and often in combination with alcohol.   The use of alcohol on top of these prescribed medications also increases overdose risk.  Instead, the article focused on one factor that may be contributing to an increase in accidental overdose deaths: prescribing practices by doctors.

Methadone was mentioned as a common factor in accidental overdoses among service members.  Methadone is often prescribed for pain.  Methadone overdose risks and benefits are important to understand since methadone sometimes increases overdose risk and sometimes reduces overdose risk.

Methadone is a slow-acting opiate.  Those who are seeking to get high from the medication sometimes take more than they can tolerate because they mistakenly think the medication is not “working.”  As the medication begins to act, the body becomes overwhelmed resulting in an overdose.

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