Opioid Use on the Decline in the VA System

I have written a number of times on the opioid crisis going on in America today. The first news I recall hearing or reading about this was in regards to opioid use in the VA system. While the biggest story had to do with a wait time for care and veterans dying while waiting to be seen another side to the story was the high amount of opioid drugs pushed on vets in an attempt to get them in and out quickly. Opioid abuse among veterans has been very high for a long time due to the problems with the VA system. Recent news is showing opioid use on the decline in the VA system.

At Louis Stokes VA Medical Center in Cleveland Ohio they report the lowest rate of opioid prescriptions in the entire VA system. The opoiod prescription rate here is just 3%. In 2012, the VA began taking steps to reduce opioid addiction among veteran patients by adopting initiative that decreased the number of prescriptions and medications dispensed which has reduced overall opioid prescriptions by 41%. Those steps involve non-drug treatment options for chronic pain, such as acupuncture, spinal manipulation therapy, chiropractic care, and yoga; non-opioid treatment options, in the form of anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and anticonvulsant medications; and the careful monitoring of opiate prescriptions. They are not just cutting prescriptions but offering alternatives to opioid to treat chronic pain.

What is awesome is they are changing the culture in the VA system away from opioid medication, really away from any medication, in the treatment of chronic pain towards active care therapies including chiropractic. This is the kind of culture change in healthcare that is necessary to end the epidemic that is the opioid crisis in the US today. On a wide spread scale private physicians should be making these same recommendations for chiropractic care in place of medication like opioids to treat chronic pain.

I have been slowly seeing a shift within the walls of the traditional medical model to opening up to working with chiropractic and chiropractors for the good of our patients instead of against. What is going on in the VA, I believe, will eventually drift out to our entire healthcare system as a whole.

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Posted in Healthcare Policy and Politics

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