The pattern is relentless: young veteran, barely 30, over-medicated, and not only uncertain but grim about his future. He may still be married, but is likely divorced, possibly estranged from his children. His family frets over his physical and mental health, while taking careful note of his ups and his downs.
Then one day, he dies. The veteran may have taken his own life deliberately. In an increasing number of cases, however, he may have simply gone to sleep and never woken up following a fatal reaction to one of the drugs or cocktails of pills he was prescribed by military doctors.
As our nation has come to rely more heavily on pharmaceutical drugs to manage chronic pain and psychological health, the U.S. military has followed suit, doling out drugs on the battlefield and now back on the home front in a vast network of veterans (VA) hospitals and clinics. But as the rates of sudden death and suicide have spiked over the past decade, it’s become clearer to mental health and military advocates that this heavy reliance on prescription drugs may be partly to blame.