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Officials at the Pentagon are becoming increasingly concerned over new data that indicates a spike in the abuse of prescription painkillers by troops. According to the latest data, military doctors wrote 3.8 million prescriptions for pain relief for service members—four times the 866, 773 doses prescribed in 2001.

Military officials believe that the increasing abuse of prescription painkillers is attributable to the toll on troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, with many troops serving more than one combat deployment. In addition, many troops suffer aches and strains carrying heavy packs, body armor, and weapons over rugged terrain.

In a 2008 study conducted by researchers at the Pentagon, one in four soldiers surveyed admitted abusing prescribed drugs, mostly pain relievers, in the 12 months prior to the survey. Moreover, fifteen percent said they abused drugs in the 30 days before the survey. So far, the Army—which has done most of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan—has created a multiservice task force to outline how to limit prescription drug use and to ensure that all Army hospitals are following the same protocol in dispensing pain medications to troops. Assistant Army Secretary Thomas Lamont recently stressed the importance of the new Army taskforce, stating: “our soldiers are coming back (from combat) wounded, sore, injured, in need of rehab”.

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