Almost half of deployed U.S. soldiers have chronic pain

Almost half of returning American soldiers who are been deployed deal with with chronic pain, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. And more than 15 percent use opioid painkillers for injuries, a higher rate than for the general population.

Researchers from Walter Reed Army Institute of Research analyzed 2,600 soldiers three months after they returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. They found that 45 percent of the soldiers experienced three-month long chronic pain from combat injuries. To help treat this pain, 15 percent of the soldiers took opioid painkillers within the past month, even though 44 percent of this group said their pain was only mild or nonexistent the last month.  This may raise a red flag regarding concerns of possible opioid abuse.

For the soldiers who experienced chronic pain, 48 percent had pain for a year or longer, 56 percent had pain every day, and 51 percent reported moderate to severe pain. Of this group, 23 percent reported using opioids.

The study noted the importance of evaluating the impact of war on soldiers and the potential for narcotic use and abuse.

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