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Addiction crisis fuel: How the VA played a part

When you come back from battle with wounds that are painful and disabling, the last thing you want is to be left in pain. The way the VA hospitals handled this was by giving out opioids, which are now known to be highly addictive pain medications.

There are around 64,000 fatal drug overdoses every year, and opioids fuel that number. The Department of Veterans Affairs did nothing to help this. In fact, a 2011 report showed that veterans were around two times more likely to die from an overdose from opiates than nonveterans.

Why would this happen to people who have already done so much for the country? It comes down to overprescribing. With VA hospitals prescribing too many opioids and ignoring the risk of addiction, it may have unwittingly created a new wave of addicts in the country. Since 2012, that's changed, though, which could be a problem as well. By drastically limiting the availability of these medications, chronic pain patients are suffering while others turn to illicit drugs to get what they need.

It's believed that Purdue Pharma hid the addictive properties of OxyContin despite knowing the risks. In fact, the company ended up being convicted of doing so. It had willingly lied to present the community of veterans a drug that posed a real threat of addiction.

When people can't get the pain medications they need, they may turn to the streets to find alternatives. It's a dangerous way to live. These people need help managing their pain, not time in prison. Those accused of drug abuse need to discuss their options with someone familiar with the law.

Source: Newsweek, "How the VA Fueled the National Opioid Crisis and Is Killing Thousands of Veterans," Art Levine, accessed Feb. 16, 2018

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