Veterans Study: Prescribed Opioids Trigger Chronic Use
Veterans Study: Prescribed Opioids Trigger Chronic Use
Veterans with pain vulnerable to overuse, overdose

A new study finds that of the nearly 1 million veterans who receive opioid medications, more than half continue to use the drugs chronically.

The study—funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and presented at the 30th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine—aims to understand how drug problems take hold in returning veterans, and pokes at the controversy surrounding long-term use of opioid drugs. The NIDA is a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

An opioid is a drug within the heroin, morphine, or oxycodone family. Though they dampen pain, they can cause physical dependency in users.

Researchers examined data from the national Veterans Healthcare Administration to see opioid prescription trends for soldiers returning from duty with pain. The study looked at veterans who were on at least 90 days of prescribed opioids within 180 days. Discontinuing meant to stop using the drugs for at least six months.

In a statement, Dr. Mark Sullivan, who led a collaborative team from three research facilities, remarked about the trends that emerged from chronic users: they were often younger, married, nonsmokers, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or multiple chronic pain conditions, and were on several opioid medications, taking above 100 mg in opioids per day.

The rise in veteran chronic users is supported by previous findings—according to the NIH, prescription drug abuse doubled among U.S. military personnel from 2002 to 2005 and almost tripled between 2005 and 2008. The latest study provides the first sample where half of all opioid users were found to be chronic users of greater than 90 days per year.

Due to their high potential for addiction and abuse, opioids are legally available only through prescription from a licensed medical professional. However, opioid-related morbidity and mortality from overdose is a growing public health concern.

Since the 1990s both prescriptions and abuse of opioid drugs for veterans has steadily increased, with the fatal overdose rate among VA patients nearly double the national average. Prescriptions for four opiates—hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, and morphine—have jumped 270 percent in the past 12 years, according to data from the Center for Investigative Reporting obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

  • eyelashviper

    I think that the issues here are very complex, and need further study and examination. Since opiads relieve pain, they are essential for many who are experiencing either acute or choronic pain. As side effect, of course, is the “high”, or feeling of well being. As many vets may also be suffering from ptsd, depression, or other worries involved with returning from duty, the “high” is likely a coping mechanism, and they continue their use just to avoid the deeper feelings of depression.
    While there are issues of physical dependency, it is important to see how any of these vets are just trying to cope, and find some benefit in the feelings that are triggered by the opiates.

  • rejco

    And the “CURE” is always the VA’s $50,000 taxpayer funded 12-Step religious AA/NA cult Drug & Alcohol treatment program…

  • 4321realist

    I’m not sure what this “high” is that the press is always talking about regarding pain pills, because I was on oxycontin for two months after 7 hours of hand surgery due to a table saw injury, and thank god for them also, because I was pain free from the moment I got out of surgery until I finished hand therapy two months later.

    When my therapy stopped and the resultant pain from the twisting and stretching was no more, I quit taking them. If I were on a high when I took them, it must have been so slight I noticed no change in my mental attitude after quitting. The only symptom I had was sleepiness, especially if I ate something sweet like a candy bar which raises serotonin levels. (Apparently opioids also raise serotonin levels, which is what occurs when we turn out the lights and turn in for the night.) Too, If I had withdrawal symptoms I must have missed those too, because I felt fine.

    I had a follow up surgery one year later. Same thing.

    My worry is that if I ever need pain suppression again I might not get anything effective, because of the hysteria caused by these radical geeks who are no more than control freaks who think their job is to impose restrictions on anything they feel is not good for us.

    They’ve got doctors terrified of being shut down if they prescribe them to a patient who truly needs them.

    I imagine people who use these pills as a crutch for whatever reason are no different than people who abuse alcohol and I’m pretty sure alcohol is ten times more dangerous for a drinker and the people around him than opioids.

    The hysteria these control freaks are causing is more alarming than any kind of substance abuse in my opinion.

    Let doctors be the ones to determine when ANY medication can be used not some weird looking creep who thinks its his job to tell people what to do and what to think, especially since his types are in the news every day for committing some kind of crime or lapse in judgment.

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