U.S. Army 1st Cavalry 3rd Brigade soldiers march onto the parade grounds at Fort Hood, Texas, upon their return home in 2011 from deployment in Iraq. Troops returning from combat use prescription narcotics at a much higher rate than that of civilians, researchers say. / Erich Schlegel / Associated Press
The rate of narcotic prescription use among U.S. troops coming out of combat is more than three times the rate for civilians and more than 44% of service members complain of chronic pain lasting longer than three months, according to military research released Monday.
"The biggest message is that war is hard on the body," says Robin Toblin, a research psychology and lead of the study with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association's Internal Medicine, provides a snapshot of how prevalent pain and narcotic use are among those who go to war.
The research was based on a survey of soldiers in an Army brigade three months after returning from Afghanistan in 2011. More than 45% said they had been injured in combat.
About 15% said they had used opioid pain relievers in the month prior to the survey, and the vast majority complained of continuing pain. About one in five said it was severe.
Of those who were in pain -- some 44% -- nearly half said they were suffering it longer than a year, 55.6% said it was daily or constant and half said the pain was moderate to severe.
Nearly one in four of those in pain said they were using narcotic pain relievers.
Within the broad public, about 26% of people say they suffer chronic pain and 4% say they use opioid medication.
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