Many military veterans released for mental health problems are prescribed psychotropic medications as a 'front-line' treatment. While these drugs can be extremely helpful in managing distress in the short-term - despite well-documented side effects - there is virtually no information about the effects of medications over the long-term.
Emerging research in Canada and the United Kingdom points to possible damage to specific brain regions and raises concerns over addiction and severe withdrawal syndromes among a substantial number of long-term patients. This is of particular concern for the routine, long-term prescribing of benzodiazepines to veterans. In the last several months, both the American FDA and Health Canada have broken a longstanding silence over this drug class by calling for black label warnings alerting prescribers and patients of the high addiction potential even after short-term use. This research and anecdotal accounts from veterans, family members, and clinicians raises questions over possible deleterious effects of long-term reliance on psychiatric medications.
When it comes to successful transition and re-integrating into civilian life for medically released veterans, then, there are crucial questions to be explored. We require a clearer understanding of the possible contributing role of long-term psychiatric medication effects in explaining: (a). reports of lack of progress among veterans undergoing psychosocial treatments; (b). the incidence of family conflicts and dysfunction; (c). the inability of some veterans to transition to civilian life; and (d). the low rates of accessing available post-service program initiatives among medically released veterans.
I have initiated a petition to the Government of Canada to explore these questions by asking veterans and family members that is open for signature until 18 February 2021.
Petition Link: https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-2930&fbclid=IwAR3HW7UmPlJibYXRACYx8kdY8tarDT7A27go_n5ME_EakDsjc2l8P_-IEHU
John J. Whelan
John J. Whelan, Ph.D., is the author of Going Crazy in the Green Machine, available now on FriesenPress.