Due to the intense daily demands for military members, many of them encounter various injuries, pain or discomfort during or after military service. These issues can lead to months of recovery and even chronic pain. Opioids are one of the most commonly prescribed medications to help alleviate pain and discomfort.
Unfortunately, opioid pain medication is a legitimate health concern in the military due to its addictive qualities and the increased opportunity for an individual to suffer a serious injury. The first step toward improving veteran opioid abuse is to understand how it happens in the first place.
Why Are Opioids Prescribed?
Opioids are a category of drugs that are derived from the opium poppy plant. These drugs are commonly prescribed in the military for their ability to quickly relax the body and alleviate intense pain. However, opioids are extremely addictive and are easy to abuse.
Prescription opioids are to be used for a short amount of time to correct short-lived physical pain. Problems start to occur when veterans are exposed to the drug for too long or they receive too much of it.
Effects of Long-Term Opioid Use and Veterans
Because of their strength and how easy they are to use too much of, it is easy to overdose on opioids. It is especially an issue if the person is taking other medications as well since opioids can react negatively with those other medications. Opioids are meant to be taken in their prescribed doses for a short amount of time.
If taken long-term, opioid prescriptions can cause the following effects:
- Slowed Breathing
- Hypoxia (too little oxygen to the brain)
Opioids, PTSD and Veteran Risk Factor
Sadly, a large percentage of U.S. military veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The onset of this condition usually occurs after a life-threatening event such as combat and can last a lifetime. Statistics regarding veterans and PTSD are listed below:
- Operations Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom: 11-20% of veterans suffer from PTSD in a given year.
- Gulf War: 12% of veterans suffer from PTSD in a given year.
- Vietnam War: Roughly 30% of Vietnam War veterans have experienced PTSD.
Opioid addiction accompanied by PTSD is quite an obstacle for those suffering. The conditions can be challenging for professionals to diagnose, but treatments such as methadone and psychotherapy can be effective.
VA’s Opioid Safety Initiative
It is no secret that long-term opioid use can be fatal. Due to this, the Opioid Safety Initiative is now in place for healthcare providers. The initiative is a framework for professionals to get a better look at the relationships between opioid strength and dosing requirements.
Veterans experiencing chronic pain now have an organized system to go through before receiving opioid prescriptions. The guidelines were put into place in 2017 to ensure minimal harm to veterans normally considered for opioid drugs.
MedMark Treatment Centers Helping Veterans
U.S. military veterans have served our country, and MedMark Treatment Centers would like to return the favor. If you or someone you know is a veteran struggling with an opioid addiction, MedMark offers assisted medication treatment and counseling to provide a better quality of life.