Opiate Use in the Veteran’s Administration System

Opiate Use in the Veteran’s Administration System

According to the Veteran Administration over 440,000 veterans using the VA system were being prescribed an opioid-based medication in 2013 and over 55,000 had an opiate abuse disorder. The Veteran’s Administration serves approximately one third of the nation’s veterans per year—the remainder relying on private or other healthcare provider services. In some cases they may not have access to healthcare at all. According to the Center on Investigative Reporting (CIR) the overdose rate among veterans using the VA system from 2001-2012 was double the national average and prescriptions for opiates such as Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Methadone and Morphine jumped by over 270% during the same period.  As a range of national media articles have indicated, a particularly lethal type of opiate is Oxycontin, a time-released form of Oxycodone. Similar to heroin in its chemical make-up, Oxycontin is very potent indeed and the risk of both accidental and intentional lethal overdose runs high.

Opiate Use in the State of New Mexico among Veterans

Overall, New Mexico has unfortunately been one of the national leaders in per capita opiate use, abuse and overdose. This lamentable statistical reality extends also to the veteran’s community in the State. The Center on Investigative Reporting (CIR) mentioned above give us some numbers on opiate use among veterans in our State. From 2001-2012, the Albuquerque VA healthcare system prescribed 95.8 opiate-based prescriptions for every 100 patients accessing services at the hospital. Of  683,645 patients, 654,903 opiate prescriptions were issued, placing the facility at the high-end for these medications by national standards.  Many veterans need pain medications, but they also require supervision, counseling in appropriate use and VA providers also need to engage in responsible prescription oversight. In 2014, a total of 285 New Mexicans died from opiate overdoses. If national statistics hold true in our State, a considerable percentage were probably veterans.

Responsible Use, Prevention and Intervention

There has been considerable research around the dangers of taking specific types of medication at the same time. For example, taking Benzodiazepines together with opiates can prove particularly deadly. Additional research indicates that veterans suffering from combat-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are at higher risk for both intentional and accidental overdose. Many veterans develop an addiction to pain medications over time and complete cessation may prove very hazardous, even fatal. Veterans with a history of substance abuse involving opiates are of course at heightened risk for overdose either through illicit or licit use of opiates. The VA recognizes this and for that reason they are supposed to provide counseling on the use of Naloxone and make Naloxone kits available, when appropriate.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/opioid-addiction-epidemic-in-6-charts/The opioid epidemic as seen in 6 charts – CBS News How the crisis started. Opioids are drugs that stimulate the brain’s opiate receptors. Some are made from opium and some are completely synthetic. In the U.S., the most commonly prescribed opioids are hydrocodone and oxycodone, which are classified as …



https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ex-dea-agent-opioid-crisis-fueled-by-drug-industry-and-congress/Ex-DEA agent: Opioid crisis fueled by drug industry and Congress – CBS News Now in a joint investigation by 60 Minutes and The Washington Post, Rannazzisi tells the inside story of how, he says, the opioid crisis was allowed to spread — aided by Congress, lobbyists, and a drug distribution industry that shipped, almost …Cannabis NowNewsdayFinancial Times



http://www.newsweek.com/va-opioid-crisis-killing-us-veterans-682402Opioid Crisis: Reckless Overprescribing of Antipsychotics is Killing Veterans – Newsweek The last time Janette Layne saw her husband alive, Sergeant Eric Layne was dozing on their couch with the TV on. That was in January 2008. Because of his mounting outbursts of rage and paranoia since returning from Iraq, psychiatrists at two VA …