Veterans Especially Hard Hit by Opioid Epidemic

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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...
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Growing Number of Veterans Treat PTSD with Marijuana

Growing Number of Veterans Treat PTSD with Marijuana
An increasing number of veterans are treating their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with marijuana, according to the Associated Press . Marijuana is not approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Research on marijuana’s effect on PTSD is contradictory and limited, the article notes. Some studies indicate marijuana may help people manage symptoms of PTSD in the short term, while one study suggested it may worsen symptoms. The Marijuana Policy Project says 10 states have listed PTSD among conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed. A few more states allow doctors enough discretion to recommend marijuana to patients suffering from PTSD. The U.S. Senate passed an amendment in November that would have allowed VA physicians to recommend medical marijuana to veterans in states where it is legal, but the measure failed to pass the House. In order for VA doctors to be able to recommend a drug, federal law requires...
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Veterans With Pain, PTSD and Substance Use Disorders May Benefit from Buprenorphine

Veterans With Pain, PTSD and Substance Use Disorders May Benefit from Buprenorphine
Buprenorphine may be more effective than opioid therapy in treating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans struggling with chronic pain, PTSD and substance use disorders, a new study suggests. Researchers found twice as many veterans treated with buprenorphine experienced improvement in PTSD symptoms, beginning at eight months and improving up to 24 months. In contrast, symptoms worsened for veterans treated with opioids, Medscape reports. The study included 382 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who were diagnosed with chronic pain, PTSD and substance use disorders. The researchers found 23.7 percent of veterans in the buprenorphine group experienced significant improvement in PTSD symptoms, compared with 11.7 percent of those treated with moderately high doses of opioids. “We rarely see patients who have isolated, chronic pain; and, for that matter we rarely see patients who have isolated PTSD or isolated opioid use disorder,” said lead author Karen Seal, MD,...
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