Military veterans face a number of problems after returning home from combat, but a major problem is disguised in the form of helpful medication.
The number of opiate prescribed to veterans has increased by 270 percent over the last twelve years, according to documents from the department of veterans affairs. Meanwhile the number of patients treated by the VA is only up 41 percent.
So the question to ask -- is the VA over medicating veterans?
Here in Montana the number of opiate prescriptions per one hundred patients in 2012 was 137.6 meaning many veterans had prescriptions for multiple addictive opiates.
In 2012 of the approximately 34 thousand patients at the VA in Fort Harrison reportedly an average of 88 patients were prescribed hydrocodone, 27 percent oxycodone, 16 percent on morphine and 5 percent on methadone.
The Fort Harrison VA says they told me a new treatment system is being put into place that would treat the root of the problem without the use of so many drugs.
"The OpioidSafety Initiative is an example of VHA's personalized, proactive and patient-centered approach to health care. We are also using a full-range of support treatments for Veterans,including Complementary and Alternative Medicine ," said Dr. Robert Petzel,VA's Under Secretary for Health. "We are delivering health care with the patient's long-term personal health goals at the forefront."
Some of the pain treatments the opiate safety initiative will use include acupuncture and behavior therapy including a pain management phone app.