Interview with Dr. Maureen McCarthy, Veterans Health Administration, Patient Care Services Deputy Chief (video)
Reporter: Is that over prescription thing like common in the VA?
Dr. McCarthy: It’s common in the whole country. It’s not you know what people think of as sick patients, so much. It’s people that have drug problems, some of which are caused by us and our prescribing. We also look at the combination of patients on opiates, like morphine and benzodiazepine like Ativan or Klonopin.
Reporter: Is that the anxiety?
Dr. McCarthy: Yes. That combination in particular is like candy for some people. It’s like they want it, they want it, they want it.
Bob Cranmer told Veritas his son David became one of those vets that Dr. McCarthy described as “some people.”
Mr. Cranmer: He joined the marines when he was still a senior in high school. Graduated from high school. Was deployed to Iraq…
Veritas: Bob’s son David injured his back while serving in Iraq in 2007 and 2008…
Mr. Cranmer : He went to the VA and when he was finally seen, it took him over a year to be seen, he was diagnosed that he would require surgery to have his disks repaired. But they never scheduled the surgery. They just gave him painkillers. And that went on for a number of years. The primary drug that he was given was Oxycontin…
Mr. Cranmer: It got to the point to where he had to actually enter an outpatient drug addiction treatment center because over a period of time he did realize he had developed an addiction to this Oxycontin. And it scared him.
Mr. Cranmer: Diagnosed him with PTSD…
Veritas: After David was diagnosed with PTSD, the VA gave him more drugs.
Mr. Cranmer: He was prescribed an antidepressant called Zoloft, as well as two mood stabilizers…
Veritas: What happened?
Mr. Cranmer: He had a 10 foot stepladder and a rope and for some reason decided to hang himself.
A month after he was diagnosed, David Cranmer used a ladder to hang himself. He left behind a wife and a five-year-old daughter…
Although Oxy will be blamed for this young man’s death, it was the combination of an antidepressant with the mood stabilizers that actually messed up his brain. (Drugs like Lithium and anticonvulsants are categorized as mood stabilizers, along with atypical antipsychotics.) Treating chronic pain and PTSD with mood stabilizers is just stupid. If David had been suffering from bipolar disorder, it would be a different story. But give a combination of an antidepressant and mood stabilizers to someone suffering from PTSD and they can easily cause depression and suicidal ideation.
I get the feeling that his father believes surgery would have corrected the problem, but that’s not true. In fact, the surgery most likely would have just made things worse. It’s obvious to me that David’s chronic back pain was mistreated and undertreated, while his PTSD was mistreated and over-treated.
It’s very important for patients to learn about the history and correct use of all prescription medications. It seems like David and his father just trusted the doctors instead of doing their own research.
(Photo taken 3/21/2015.)