As vets struggle with opioid abuse, VA responds with multi-pronged approach to treatment

PTSD, and avoiding problems will hinder progress in treatment.

“PTSD is such a complex mental health condition that we need to understand from different points of views,” Dr. Restrepo said, adding that PTSD brings back stressful memories causing isolation and fear.

For American soldiers, PTSD typically occurs after they experience combat. The disorder causes flashbacks, nightmares, and frightening thoughts, which can be triggered by words, objects or situations that remind them of traumatic events.

Instead of looking for services, some veterans try to deal with PTSD symptoms through alcohol, opioids and other drugs, Dr. Restrepo said. “Looking for services is a really difficult step, too, because it’s accepting a condition that is really hard to accept, a PTSD condition. But as soon as the person conquers it, that’s when treatment is possible. That’s when sobriety, recovery and hope are possible.”

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Feeling numb to activities that once brought joy is also a potential sign of PTSD and can make veterans feel angry, irritable or depressed. Also, some vets feel like they are always “on guard.” All symptoms can worsen with drugs and alcohol.

Treatment is generally complex; battlefield injuries cause lifelong moderate to severe pain ranging from musculoskeletal damage to permanent nerve damage. These injuries likely impact their physical abilities and their emotional health, and with PTSD mixed in, opioid-based medication has been the most prescribed drug to veterans.

“I work with people that have been experiencing difficulties with overusing substances or alcohol to try to cope either with medical comorbidities or to cope with other psychiatric conditions,” Dr. Restrepo said. “It’s extremely difficult to see just one person with substance use disorder without depression, PTSD, chronic pain or hepatitis C. Much of our population has multiple layers of difficulties.”

The VA’s Opioid Safety Initiative (OSI)

The VA says that finding effective routes to address pain is a nationwide concern, and some veterans currently suffer from high rates of chronic pain.

The Opioid Safety Initiative (OSI) is the VA’s multi-faceted approach to reduce the usage and needs for opioid use among American veterans using the VA health care system. It aims to increase the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of vets suffering from chronic pain.

Launched in late 2013, the initiative has demonstrated success in decreasing dependency in opioid use by applying a team approach with the goal of reducing pain through non-prescription methods. The techniques emphasize… (continue reading)

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As vets struggle with opioid abuse, VA responds with multi-pronged approach to treatment
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According to the National Center for PTSD, a branch of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), 27 percent of veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also suffer from substance use disorder (SUD). Veterans coming back from the Middle East face a 60 percent chance of returning with chronic pain, according to VA officials. Additionally, 50 percent of older veterans in the VA health care suffer from some kind of chronic pain.
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Addiction Now