Tag Archives: war vets

VA over-prescribing narcotics to vets: report

soldier drugsEasy access to powerful prescription opiates has led to a rise in overdose deaths among war veterans, a new report has found. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Department of Veterans Affairs has issued more than one opiate prescription per patient, on average, for the past two years. Prescriptions for four opiates – hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone and morphine – have surged by 270% in the past 12 years, CIR found in an analysis of data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

According to CIR:

The agency charged with helping veterans recover from war instead masks their pain with potent drugs, feeding addictions and contributing to a fatal overdose rate among VA patients that is nearly double the national average.

CIR notes that this spike in opiate prescriptions has occurred despite new VA regulations laid out in 2009 requiring clinicians to follow an “integrated approach” to helping veterans in pain, including a stronger focus on treating the root causes of pain rather than using powerful narcotics to reduce symptoms.

Many areas of the nation with military bases and large VA hospitals have seen prescription drug abuse skyrocket among American soldiers in recent years.

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Vets with PTSD often prescribed more opioids: study

War veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder are two times more likely to be prescribed potentially addictive opiod painkillers such as oxycodone, morphine and hydrocodone than those without any mental health problems, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Out of about 141,000 war veterans who were treated for pain at a VA medical center between 2005 and 2010, close to 16,000 were prescribed at least a three-week course of opioids, the study found. While less than seven percent of vets without any mental health problems were prescribed the powerful painkillers, close to 12 percent with a diagnosis such as depression or anxiety were given opioids, and almost 18 percent with PTSD received a prescription.

Dr. Karen Seal, the study’s lead author, told Reuters those numbers were worrisome because some people who take opioids abuse the drugs or overdose on them – and those who already have mental troubles may be most at risk.

Read more about prescription drug addiction among American troops here.

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