I have a lot of respect for our active military members and veterans. I myself served in Naval Special Warfare and I know the dedication and sacrifice our military members and their families make on a daily basis. This post is in no way disrespectful to our military but more so a look into a disturbing set of statistics and allegations about our nations government and the way they are handling our injured veterans.
In a recent report released by ABC news, Dr. Basimah Khulusi was pushed out of her job as a rehabilitation specialist in a VA hospital in Kansas City, Mo. The reason she believes she was let go from her job of 5 and half years is because of the complaints she was receiving that she was not prescribing enough powerful opiate painkillers.
VA prescriptions of hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone and morphine increased by 270 percent between 2001 and 2012. These numbers attributed to a fatal overdose rate of nearly double the national average. According to Khulusi, the majority of the veterans she had seen in the pain clinic were already addicted to their opiate painkiller medications. Some patients were receiving doses as high as 900 narcotic painkillers per month and 1,000 milligrams of morphine per day. That level of morphine is 10 times the level Khulusi considered safe.
Depending on where the VA hospitals are located drastically changes the number of prescriptions filled for opiate painkillers. Doctors in VA hospitals in Oregon and Oklahoma are writing nearly 8 times as many narcotic prescriptions as those in New York City. The Kansas City, Mo hospital in which Khulusi worked saw their prescriptions for opiates increase 173 percent from 2001 to 2012.
To play devil's advocate, the military has gone through two recent wars. We have injured military veterans and active service members that have ailments and pain they have to live with because of the war. The numbers are naturally going to increase due to this reason but the rate at which these medications are going out and the dosages permitted by doctors are extremely high.
The VA has announced that they are well aware of the problem. The agency recently announced a new Opioid Safety Initiative that is designed to reduce the volume of opiate painkiller prescriptions. The Opioid Safety Initiative will also be used to educate the hospital staff and the veterans on the dangers of abuse and addiction due to these medications. In the addition to education, the VA is also going to implement alternative medicine programs for those who qualify and are interested such as acupuncture and yoga as alternatives.
The thing that worries me about this problem is the way it is being handled. Our government should be giving the best care possible to our injured service members and not just doping them up and sending them on their way. These medications should be monitored more strictly and not given out too easily. Doctors need to make the right call to when they believe a patient is addicted or abusing their medications. In Khulusi's case it cost her her job, but I am sure she can sleep peacefully knowing she did what she believed was best for her patients.