VA sees reduction in prescription opioid use

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The U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said it has seen a 64 percent reduction in the use of prescription opioids for patients over the past eight years.

According to a statement by the VA, only 247,000 veterans were prescribed opioids through the third quarter of 2020, compared to 679,000 in 2012. The department said the reduction was accomplished through “aggressively emphasizing the safe and responsible use of prescription opioids” and supplementing chronic pain treatments with alternative therapies and treatments.

“Collectively, uncontrolled pain, distress and functional impairments can reduce the quality of life for veterans and their families, increasing the risk for overdose, substance use disorders and suicide,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said. “More than one third of veterans in the VA health care system live with some form of chronic pain, and given the opioid crisis, it is our duty to do everything we can to help veterans avoid opioid overdose and provide them with alternative pain management treatment.”

The VA said its “Opioid Safety Initiative” reduced the number of patients receiving any opioid and benzodiazepine combinations, as well. In 2012, nearly 213,000 patients received the drug combination compared to 16,000 in 2020, a reduction of 87 percent.

Veterans on long-term opioids fell by 70 percent and the number of veterans on very high doses fell by 80 percent, the administration said.

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