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Study Finds Veterans Prescribed Psychotropic Drugs Without Diagnoses

Update Date: Nov 01, 2013 01:38 PM EDT

Based on several studies, researchers have found that veterans have an increased risk of suffering from mental illnesses, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. Even if veterans are at a great risk of developing these conditions, a proper diagnosis is still needed to determine the best treatment route for each veteran. However, according to a new Yale study, roughly 30 percent of veterans are prescribed psychotropic drugs without being diagnosed with a mental illness.

"Older adults are much more vulnerable to drug side effects, so our goal is to ensure they are getting the right medication for the right diagnosis in the safest way possible," said Dr. Ilse Wiechers, a Robert Woods Johnson Clinical Scholar at the Yale School of Medicine and VA Connecticut Healthcare System and lead author of the study.

For this study, the research team used information provided by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). The data, which was on 1.8 million veterans, came from pharmacy and encounter claims. The researchers analyzed the use of psychotropic medications in the patients across all age groups. The researchers reported that veterans who were older than 65 were more likely than younger veterans to be given drugs without a psychiatric diagnosis. The team found that three in 10 were prescribed psychotropic drugs.

"As a geriatric psychiatrist, I kept running into patients with psychiatric drug prescriptions and no diagnosis of mental illness,'' Wiechers said reported by Medical Xpress. "The question was, how often is this happening?"

The authors believe that their findings suggest that more needs to be done to ensure that elderly veterans get better care. Overprescribing drugs or prescribing drugs for wrong conditions can be extremely detrimental for seniors. The study was published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

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