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1 in 6 Service Members Returning From Combat Deployments Use Opiates

The United States military service members and veterans sacrifice so much for the freedoms we all enjoy. They put the country before all personal parts of their life to protect us. Many spend months and even years over seas in dangerous places away from their own family. They miss out on family milestones and work so hard so we can be safe. Training long hours and traveling before deployments can be very draining and stressful.  As the opiate epidemic is flooding our towns all across the country, it too is affecting our military.

The Department of Veteran Affairs is prescribing 270% more opiates to veterans than it was 12 years ago. This amazing jump is creating an uproar from the veterans and their families. People want to know why the jump has occurred and why the hospitals are over prescribing opiates to our county's heroes.

It is not just affecting our nation's veterans, according to new studies, 1 in 6 military service members returning from deployments from Iraq or Afghanistan are using opiates. Almost half of the U.S. soldiers who have recently returned from deployment have chronic pain, and 15 percent use opioid painkillers, a new study finds. These new estimates of chronic pain and opioid use among soldiers are higher than those seen among the civilian population, the researchers said. About 26 percent of people in the general population report having chronic pain and 4 percent use opioids. To say that our military is being drugged with opiates more so than the civilian world is an understatement.

The researchers surveyed nearly 2,600 service members three months after they had returned from Afghanistan or Iraq who were not seeking medical treatment. About 45 percent had combat injuries and chronic pain that lasted at least three months, and 15 percent said they had used opioid painkillers in the past month, according to the study published June 30th in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

"Recently, rates of opioid use and misuse have ballooned, leading to significant numbers of overdose-related hospitalizations and deaths," said the study researchers, lead by psychologist Robin Toblin of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, in Silver Spring, Maryland, wrote in the study.

Notably, 44 percent of soldiers who reported using opioids said they had no pain or only mild pain during the past month, the study found. "This might imply that opioids are working to mitigate pain, but it is also possible that service members are receiving or using these medications unnecessarily," the researchers wrote. "This is cause for concern because opioids should be prescribed generally for moderate to severe pain and have high abuse and overdose potential."

The opiate epidemic is affecting our military members and will soon affect its operations. Being a veteran myself, I worry that this issue will not gain the necessary interest in the chain of command. This problem needs to be addressed immediately and research needs to be done to find out why so many opiates are being prescribed and to implement ways to combat the over-prescribing.


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