Opinions expressed in guest posts are not necessarily those of Addiction Inbox.
By Brandon Yu
After spending weeks, months, or years on the battlefield, veterans often experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when returning to civilian life. The Department of Veteran Affairs reports that 60% of men and 50% of women, not just veterans, experience some sort of trauma in their lifetimes. PTSD has been known to cause insomnia, depression, and a sense of detachment, making it difficult for veterans to readjust to society, and throwing their personal and professional lives into disarray.
While there may not be a cure for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, there are treatments, and certainly medication, to sooth its side-effects. The most popular medication for PTSD is the pharmaceutical Quetiapine, marketed as Seroquel by the biologics company AstraZeneca. A potent antipsychotic, Seroquel is often prescribed to treat symptoms of psychoses including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and acute manic episodes; numerous physicians claim that it is one of the few treatments that curbs the nightmares, insomnia and anxiety that come with PTSD. It is not considered a controlled substance, and not deemed addictive like other sleeping pills.
However, several families of veterans are calling for a Congressional investigation of Seroquel after reports of mistreatment over the drug have arisen. After some complaints that the treatment was not working, some doctors prescribed progressively larger doses for given patients, with certain ones receiving more than double the maximum recommended. Though only six similar deaths have been noted, there is a belief that there have been others. The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a report linking Seroquel use to heart failure, noting that 3 of 1,000 patients who suffered from cardiac arrest were noted to be on Seroquel at the time of death.
Seroquel is one of the more common medications in America, as it is one of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ most prescribed drugs and the fifth best-selling drug in the nation. It has been reported to help schizophrenia and PTSD, but some of its side effects, such as diabetes, weight gain, and uncontrollable muscle spasms, have caused AstraZeneca to receive multiple trips to court, with an estimated 10,000 product liability lawsuits. It is noted that although it is commonly prescribed for those suffering PTSD, Seroquel has not received FDA approval as proper treatment for insomnia. Families of veterans who are attempting a Congressional investigation on Seroquel are hoping for a clearer guideline of the side effects as well as the risk to one’s health.