Veterans with PTSD who take multiple medications could be at risk of adverse health effects

A message from the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation

Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who take multiple medications may be at significant risk of adverse health events, such as drowsiness and confusion, respiratory depression, and postural instability, which can lead to falls, fractures, and hospital admission.

The risks were outlined in the findings of a study conducted by Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation (GMRF), which aims to highlight how common the practice of prescribing multiple medications – known as polypharmacy – is among veterans with PTSD, and its potential risks.

The study found that 90% of veterans with PTSD in this cohort had a diagnosis of at least one other psychiatric condition, and 97% had at least one non-psychiatric medical condition.

In terms of the use of multiple medications, 80% of the study participants (veterans with PTSD who were admitted for treatment) were treated with two or more psychotropic medicines (psychotropic polypharmacy), which are defined as any drug capable of affecting the mind, emotions, and behaviour.

‘Through this research, we’ve illustrated how psychotropic polypharmacy increases the risk of adverse drug events and drug-drug interactions, which can contribute to falls, hospital admissions, morbidity, and mortality,’ said Dr Rebecca Mellor, Senior Research Fellow at GMRF, and lead researcher on this study.

‘This highlights the importance of increasing awareness of polypharmacy – especially psychotropic polypharmacy – and potentially inappropriate drug combinations, and the need for improved medication review by prescribers.’

GMRF’s Psychiatric Advisor and Director of Medical Services at Toowong Private Hospital, Dr Andrew Khoo, provided expert guidance on this research.

Do you take multiple medications for various health conditions? Find out how you can support your health outcomes at the GMRF website.