Opioid use disorder (OUD) among Veterans is a growing problem with far-reaching consequences. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) 2018 National Health Care Survey revealed that opioid abuse has been on the rise among veterans since 2011, with an estimated one in six now battling OUD. Opioids being abused include:
This alarming jump in opioid abuse can be attributed to several factors, including increasing access to powerful painkillers and the VA’s aggressive prescription policies for chronic pain management during the last decade. This increase in opioid availability combined with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other mental health issues commonly seen in Veterans have made Vets more vulnerable to OUD compared to civilians without military backgrounds.
Fentanyl has Reduced our Margin for Error
Fentanyl is an extremely strong opioid drug that is typically prescribed for severe pain such as cancer-related pain or post-surgery recovery. It comes in several forms including lollipop, tablets, patches and injections. Fentanyl has been the catalyst behind the record overdose rates that the United States is experiencing. Accidental overdose is the leading cause of death for people aged 18 to 49.
Fentanyl produces a euphoric feeling which can be very addictive if abused over time. In addition to its powerful analgesic properties, fentanyl has some serious side effects that include nausea and vomiting, confusion and drowsiness, respiratory depression and constipation.
Causes Of Opioid Abuse Among Veterans
Opioid abuse among Veterans has become an increasingly concerning issue in recent years. The United States Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that nearly 20 percent of Veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have misused opioids in the past year, a staggering statistic that has led to a need for increased research and treatment.
Experts attribute this epidemic to a variety of factors, including untreated PTSD symptoms, access to pharmaceuticals with high misuse potential, and lack of mental health care in certain areas. Untreated PTSD is commonly linked to opioid abuse as those suffering from the disorder often seek relief through self-medication. Additionally, easy access to pharmaceuticals like oxycodone and Vicodin makes it easier for those at risk to obtain these medications and increase their likelihood of misuse or abuse.
Effects Of Opioid Use On Veterans
Opioid use among veterans is a growing concern, as its effects on the mental and physical health of these individuals can be severe. Veterans who misuse opioids often suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts. This can have dire consequences for those who have served their country and are now struggling with addiction.
Research has found that veteran opioid users are more likely to experience feelings of depression compared to non-users. Additionally, they also tend to experience higher rates of suicidal ideation, which is when people think about or consider suicide but do not take steps to end their own lives. This suggests that opioid use in veterans may be linked to an increased risk for suicide.
Using Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) to Reduce OUD Veterans
Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is an evidence-based treatment combined with counseling and behavioral therapies, making it a comprehensive approach to treating addiction. MAT has shown to be effective in helping people reduce or stop their drug use while improving their overall quality of life.
One specific form of MAT is Suboxone, which combines the drugs buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine works by attaching to the same receptors in the brain as other opioids, such as heroin or prescription painkillers, but without having the same effects on the body or mind. Naloxone blocks opioid receptors from being activated by any other opioids taken during treatment, reducing the risk of relapse for those taking Suboxone for MAT purposes.
Medication Assisted Treatment, or MAT, is an increasingly popular form of treatment for substance abuse. MAT focuses on treating drug cravings and other withdrawal symptoms, with the goal of helping individuals become and remain abstinent from drugs and alcohol. Research has demonstrated that medication assisted treatment works because it helps people suffering from addiction reduce their cravings for substances, making it easier to maintain sobriety.
MAT combines psychological therapies with medications such as methadone or buprenorphine to help block the euphoric effects of opioids and reduce craving levels. This type of treatment also helps reduce the risk of relapse by providing support in managing withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, depression, insomnia and irritability. Additionally, MAT is often combined with counseling sessions to address underlying issues related to addiction that can contribute to relapse if left unresolved.
Symptoms of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)
The opioid crisis in the United States is growing and having devastating effects on individuals, families, and communities. It is important to recognize early indicators of opioid addiction so that appropriate treatments can be sought before the situation becomes life-threatening. Withdrawal symptoms are one of the most common signs of an opioid addiction, and can include physical and psychological symptoms.
Physical withdrawal symptoms may include sweating, nausea or vomiting, headaches or body aches, insomnia or excessive sleeping, uncontrollable shaking or trembling, feverishness and chills. Psychological withdrawal symptoms may include feelings of restlessness or anxiety, depression or irritability, mood swings or sudden changes in emotion for no apparent reason. If you are experiencing any of these signs it could be a sign that you have an underlying issue with opioids.
Get help for OUD Now
Make the decision to treat opioid misuse as soon as possible. The earlier you take steps to manage your addiction, the sooner you’ll be able to address the underlying reason for your illness as well.