Is VA Causing Veterans to Overdose on Opiates?
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been contributing to the substance abuse problems of veterans by overprescribing powerful painkillers, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR).
Instead of helping treat veterans’ pain, the VA has loaded up sufferers with highly-addictive drugs, including hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone and morphine.
VA prescriptions for these four medications have skyrocketed since 2001 by 270%, contributing to fatal overdoses among VA patients, who have nearly double the national average.
Dispensing of painkillers has become so prevalent, in fact, that the agency issued more than one opiate prescription per patient, on average, for the past two years, CIR found.
VA officials tried to address this problem four years ago with new rules for doctors to follow when treating veterans for pain. And yet, “VA doctors are prescribing more opiates than ever and the data suggests that adoption of the regulations varies wildly,” CIR’s Aaron Glantz wrote.
When Glantz viewed the prescription records for two VA hospitals, he discovered physicians at a facility in rural southern Oregon gave out eight times as many opiates per patient as doctors at the VA hospital in Manhattan.
“The VA is very segmented, very siloed, and you have a lot of fiefdoms where hospital directors are just running their own show out there,” Tom Tarantino, a former Army captain and chief policy officer for the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told CIR.
To Learn More:
VA’s Opiate Overload Feeds Veterans’ Addictions, Overdose Deaths (by Aaron Glantz, Center for Investigative Reporting)
VA Spent $717 Million for Useless Post-Traumatic Stress Drug (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
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