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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Prescription Narcotic Abuse Amongst Veterans

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Prescription pain narcotics work great to relieve pain, but at a high cost due to the great potential for abuse. Veterans who come home from war with injuries, both physical and psychological, are using drugs like hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone and morphine more than ever before. In fact prescriptions have jumped 270 percent in the past 12 years among VA patients, according to a report by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR).

The report found that the death rate from opiate overdoses among Veterans Affairs (VA) patients is almost double the national average.

The VA has issued, on average, more than one opiate prescription per patient for the past two years. The over medicating of patients is becoming more and more common in order to meet the demand for more complex treatment.

“Giving a prescription, which they know how to do and are trained to do, is almost a default,” said Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist and retired brigadier general who served as commanding general of the Army’s Southeast Regional Medical Command.

The VA put forth regulations in 2009 that required doctors to follow an integrated approach when dealing with veterans in pain. They require a stronger focus on treating the causes of pain, as opposed to just reduce symptoms, the article notes.

Depending where you are in the country will dictate what kind of prescribing practices you see. In southern Oregon, doctors at a VA hospital prescribed eight times as many opiates per patient as those in the VA hospital in Manhattan, N.Y.
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