Veterans are among those hit the hardest by the devastation that is the American opioid crisis. In fact, the latest federal data shows those vets who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are twice as likely to die from an overdose of prescription painkillers than the rest of the country.
A recent report from Newsweek indicates that we should be blaming the Department of Veterans Affairs for turning an astronomical number of veterans into suicidal junkies.
The report, which was penned by Art Levine, explains that the VA’s practice of overprescribing opioid medications is the culprit behind thousands of vets every year meeting an untimely demise. It goes on to say that the majority of the problem stems from the VA’s lack of attention to how opioid prescriptions have been doled out throughout the years. The agency did not start monitoring these prescriptions until 2015.
President Donald Trump officially declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency in October. What was most interesting about this declaration of war is that he seemingly sent the nation into battle without confronting the true enemy—the pharmaceutical companies.
Instead, Trump has been pressuring Chinese leaders to take responsibility for chopping the head off this monster. Reports show that the president believes the nation can regain control from its addict daze by stopping Chinese-produced fentanyl and heroin originating “south of the border” from being distributed in the United States.
But there is very little focus right now on keeping veterans safe from the prescription habits of doctors employed with the VA. Unfortunately, the federal government isn’t doing much to change that.
Right now, there is a bill stalled in Congress called the Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act, which is designed to force the VA to study its patients to find out just how many of them would still be around had it not been for suicide or a drug overdose.
“The Veterans Administration needs to understand whether overmedication of drugs, such as opioid pain-killers, is a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths,” Senator John McCain, the primary sponsor of the measure, said in an email to Reuters.
But the VA argues that it is already taking steps to ensure veterans are better protected when under the influence of opioid medications. The department claims to have assisted around 68,000 vets this year in getting help for addiction issues. Patients are also being given opportunities to explore alternative treatments so they do not have to rely solely on prescription drugs. But no medical marijuana.
While it was recently discovered that a heaping majority of veterans are open to using marijuana for its medical benefits, VA Secretary David Shulkin says the department will not discuss this treatment option with its patients until the federal government changes its policy.