The opioid epidemic has taken an especially heavy toll on U.S. veterans, Reuters reports.
Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from accidental overdoses of opioid painkillers.
Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are at the highest risk of opioid addiction, federal data indicates.
Senator John McCain has sponsored the Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act, which would fund research to help Veterans Administration (VA) doctors rely less on opioids in treating chronic pain. The bill is stalled in Congress, the article notes. “The Veterans Administration needs to understand whether overmedication of drugs, such as opioid painkillers, is a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths,” said McCain, a Vietnam veteran.
The VA system has treated 68,000 veterans for opioid addiction since March, according to a department spokesman. The Louis Stokes VA Center in Cleveland has started testing alternative treatments, including acupuncture and yoga, to reduce use of and dependency on opioids, the VA said.