Opioid drug abuse is on the rise across the United States, but there’s also a rise in veterans abusing opioids. In fact, statistics show that opioid abuse killed more Americans than the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined.
Advocates are focusing on helping veterans deal with the crisis.
Accidental overdoses are twice as high for veterans than non-veterans, and this may be a reflection of the high amount of pain that veterans feel. Federal data shows that those that served in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are particularly more likely to have a higher level of accidental overdoses.
“A recent investigation conducted by a non-profit media outlet unearthed details incriminating over 17,000 health practitioners for receiving substantial handouts from pharmaceutical companies,” writes Ankin Law Office LLC.
In a 12-month period, 64,000 Americans died, an increase of 21% over the previous year, all from overdoses.
Help is available, whether a veteran is addicted because of physicians overprescribing pain medications or because of abuse in service. The Veterans Administration has increased their efforts to treat veterans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs helped treat 68,000 veterans for opioids between an eight-month period in 2017.
Veterans that have returned home from deployment in the Middle East have a much higher risk of chronic pain. Statistics show that 60% of veterans that return from deployments have chronic pain, and 50% of older veterans also suffer from the same fate. This is double the number of Americans that have chronic pain.
Opioid painkillers were once the main go-to option to help veterans suffering from chronic pain. There was a 270% spike, over a 12-year period, where prescriptions for opiates increased. Veteran Affairs is working to solve the problem with:
- Reduction in opioid prescriptions
- Reduction in prescription dosages
Approximately 13% of all veterans take opioids, and 68,000 veterans are dealing with opioid-abuse disorders.
What can veterans do if they suffer from chronic pain but hope to avoid being another addition to the opioid crisis’ toll?
Alternative measures are available from the VA:
- Physical therapy
- Mindfulness meditation
There have also been studies, recently released, that show cannabis reduces the risk of opioid abuse. This may be an option for a veteran in chronic pain in a state where medical cannabis is offered.
Cannabis has a low risk of addiction and no risk of overdose.
If you or a loved one is a veteran that is facing chronic pain and potential addiction to pain medications or opioids, there is help available. The VA is the first place to contact. Contact the VA to find what services are offered that will be able to help you overcome your addiction.
Alternative forms of treatment are available that pose less of a health and addiction risk than traditional pain medications.
Support groups and programs are available, too.
The VA has also started to offer naloxone, a drug that will assist in reversing the impact of an overdose and can save a person’s life. The VA has not been prescribing naloxone for long, but it has helped save the lives of hundreds of veterans.