Report: Veterans are more complex to treat for opioid addiction

op Report: Veterans are more complex to treat for opioid addiction

Paraphernalia for smoking and injecting drugs in Huntington, West Virginia. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

By Matt Saintsing

Treating veterans suffering from opioid addiction is seen as especially complex than treating other patients, according to a study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The study, which explores the views of medical and addiction treatment practitioners and the general American public, finds that more than a third of practitioners don’t feel confident in treating veterans.

Finding ways to share knowledge and experience with veterans, and increasing training and hiring of those practitioners could prove to be fruitful in combatting the epidemic.

Of the medical doctors surveyed, 60% say medical staff with extensive experience treating veterans would help immensely.

A fifth of both of the groups studied cite veterans as suffering most from opioid addiction.

“The average veteran is not someone who wants to be seen as weak, who is needy, who needs help, and there are obviously plenty of us who need help. In our most recent member survey, 63% said they have chronic pain”, said Allison Jaslow, Executive Director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Currently, the VA estimates there are over 5 million veterans with chronic pain.

More than two-thirds of practitioners say that treating veterans who suffer from opioid addiction is more complex than others due to the factors of chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a lack of necessary support transitioning back to civilian life.

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), the only member of Congress to also be a practicing psychologist, first came into contact with the highly addictive opiate fentanyl when he was involved in a vehicle roll-over in Iraq while on a Congressional delegation trip in 2005.

“When you have depression with opiate use you increase your risk of abuse, misuse, or addiction by 300%-400%”, said Murphy, who is also in the Navy Reserves and sees patients at Walter Reed Medical Center.

Additionally, 51% of opiates are prescribed to someone with a mood disorder.

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