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The Unspoken Epidemic – Veterans Addicted to Painkillers

War is like hell.

And as a nation that’s been at war for decades now, there are far too many veterans suffering from the effects of it.

Couple that with the meteoric rise of opioid use over the last 20 years or so and what we have on our hands is an unspoken epidemic. One buried within the broader opioid epidemic.

Veterans addicted to painkillers.

Taken on its own, our national battle with opioids is already a tragedy in its own right, but when it’s happening to those who’ve sacrificed and given so much to the nation – to the ones who put their lives on the line for the freedoms we enjoy – it hits differently.

What Is a Painkiller Addiction?

The most commonly prescribed and used painkillers are opioids and chances are you’re very familiar with these names:

  • OxyContin
  • Hydrocodone
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl 

It just so happens that these are also highly, highly addictive substances and can lead directly to what’s known as an opioid use disorder (OUD). Defined as, “chronic use of opioids that causes clinically significant distress or impairment. Opioid use disorders affect over 16 million people worldwide, over 2.1 million in the United States, and there are over 120,000 deaths worldwide annually attributed to opioids”.

In the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “over 70% of the 70,630 deaths in 2019 involved an opioid”.

Why Are Veterans Addicted to Painkillers?

Pain is a part of war and the training for it.

The Brookings Institution summed it up well, saying, “by virtue of service to our country, especially in a period of ongoing war, veterans report higher rates of severe pain and chronic pain than the general population. Those realities create an environment where opioid therapies can become widespread and lasting. For veterans who are also disproportionately likely to experience mental health conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)”.

With respect to pain, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) puts some specific numbers to it, noting “two-thirds [of veterans] report they experience pain. More than 9% reported that they experience severe pain, compared to only 6.4% of non-veterans, putting them at higher risk for accidental opioid pain reliever overdoses”.

NIDA also reported that in 2009, military physicians wrote 3.8 million prescriptions for main medication – 4 times more than in 2001.

Perhaps even more troubling is that suicide rates, which are already 1.5 times higher for vets than civilians, may be linked to the intensity of pain according to a study by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The Best Way to Get Help With a Painkiller Addiction

Among the most effective ways to beat addiction to painkillers is to seek professional, individualized help.

Opioids are intensely addictive and benefit from treatment by those who have seen it before and can therefore guide you through the process better. At Valley Recovery Center at Agua Dulce, treatment for opioid addiction is one of our core specializations. We understand that world more thoroughly than most.

We’ll work with you to create a dedicated and customized rehab program that first works to get you off of the painkillers safely and securely. From there we’ll pull from a wide variety of treatment techniques to craft a plan that’s built around your unique needs as a veteran.

The core of the program often revolves around group and individual therapy and is complemented by things like psychoeducational lectures, art or music therapy, yoga classes, anger management therapy and more. Whatever you need.

We only take 6 men into our programs, meaning that treatment truly does revolve around you.

If painkillers are controlling your life, reach out to us at VRC at Agua Dulce because as a vet, you deserve the best life possible.

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