Opioid abuse crisis takes heavy toll on U.S. veterans




  • In US
  • 2017-11-10 11:09:51Z
  • By By Barbara Goldberg
 

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Opioid drug abuse has killed more Americans than the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars combined, and U.S. veterans and advocates this Veteran's Day are focusing on how to help victims of the crisis.

Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from accidental overdoses of the highly addictive painkillers, a rate that reflects high levels of chronic pain among vets, particularly those who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to federal data.

U.S. government and healthcare officials have been struggling to stem the epidemic of overdoses, which killed more than 64,000 Americans in the 12 months ending last January alone, a 21 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. About 65,000 Americans died in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Donald Trump named opioids a national public health emergency and a White House commission last week recommended establishing a nationwide system of drug courts and easier access to alternatives to opioids for people in pain.

"Our veterans deserve better than polished sound bites and empty promises," said former Democratic Congressman Patrick Kennedy, a recovering addict and a member of the president's opioid commission.

Kennedy said in an e-mail that more funding was needed for treatment facilities and medical professionals to help tackle the problem.

One effort to address the issue has stalled in Congress - the proposed Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act, sponsored by Senator John McCain. That measure is aimed at researching ways to help Veterans Administration doctors rely less on opioids in treating chronic pain.

"The Veterans Administration needs to understand whether overmedication of drugs, such as opioid pain-killers, is a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths," McCain, one of the nation's most visible veterans, said in an e-mail on Thursday. He noted that 20 veterans take their lives each day, a suicide rate 21 percent higher than for other U.S. adults.

The VA system has stepped up its efforts to address the crisis, having treated some 68,000 veterans for opioid addiction since March, said Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman Curtis Cashour.

The department's Louis Stokes VA Center in Cleveland has also begun testing alternative treatments, including acupuncture and yoga, to reduce use of and dependency on the drugs, the VA said.

A delay in naming a Trump administration "drug czar" to head the effort, however, has fueled doubts about immediate action on the opioid crisis. Last month the White House nominee, Representative Tom Marino, withdrew from consideration following a report he spearheaded a bill that hurt the government's ability to crack down on opioid makers.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Dan Grebler)

COMMENTS

More Related News

Trump warnings grow from forgotten Republicans
Trump warnings grow from forgotten Republicans

The ranks of forgotten Republicans are growing. Some were forced out, such as Tim Pawlenty, a former two-term Minnesota governor who lost this week's bid for a political comeback. Some, such as the retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker, chose to leave on their own.

AP source: It
AP source: It's not just audio, Manigault Newman has video

Omarosa Manigault Newman has made it clear that she plans to continue selectively releasing pieces of evidence to back up her claims if President Trump continues to attack her.

Pentagon delays Trump
Pentagon delays Trump's military parade until at least 2019

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Defense Department said Thursday that the Veterans Day military parade ordered up by President Donald Trump won't happen in 2018.

Bin Laden raid commander to Trump: revoke my security clearance too
Bin Laden raid commander to Trump: revoke my security clearance too

William McRaven, commander of the US Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, condemned President Donald Trump on Thursday for revoking the security clearance of former CIA chief John Brennan and asked that his be withdrawn as well. "Few Americans have done more to protect this country than

US newspapers to Trump: We
US newspapers to Trump: We're not enemies of the people

Newspapers from Maine to Hawaii pushed back against President Donald Trump's attacks on "fake news" Thursday with a coordinated series of editorials speaking up for a free and vigorous press - and, not surprisingly, Trump didn't take it silently. The Portland (Maine) Press-Herald said

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: US

facebook
Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.