A recent article from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) urges better cooperation between states and Veterans Affairs (VA) health centers regarding prescription drug monitoring among Veterans, especially for opioids and benzodiazepines. It cites the necessity to ensure quality treatment and alleviation of pain while being more aware of addiction problems for the purpose of prevention and rehabilitation.
Last Fall, a statement was provided to the House Veterans Affairs’ Subcommittee on Health hearing, “Between Peril and Promise: Facing the Dangers of VA’s Skyrocketing Use of Prescription Painkiller’s to Treat Veterans” by APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. Dr. Levin recommended more specialty training for physicians within the VA system for the diagnosis and treatment of co-occurring disorders as well as opioid addiction.
The APA produced a series of webinars focused on the use of treatments for opioid dependence and on the safe use of opioids in the treatment of chronic pain. The free webinars were available for psychiatrists, physicians of other specialties, other prescribers, residents, and other interested clinicians. Example webinar topics included:
– The Use of Buprenorphine to Treat Co-occurring Pain and Opioid Dependence in a Primary Care Setting
– Learning the Evidence Behind Alternative/Complementary Chronic Pain Management – Emphasis on Chronic Low Back Pain
– Patterns of Opioid Use, Misuse, and Abuse in the Military, VA, and US Population
– Enhancing Access to PDMPs [Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs] Through Health Information Technology
– Identifying and Intervening With Problematic Medication Use Behaviors
– Assessing and Screening for Addiction in Chronic Pain Patients
– Psychological Management and Pharmacotherapy of Patients with Chronic Pain and Depression, Schizophrenia, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The number of Veterans dealing with anxiety, PTSD, depression or any other disorder in conjunction with substance abuse is higher than ever. A large portion of the addiction problems are connected to prescription drugs, especially for those who are also combating chronic pain symptoms. A greater awareness and higher level of education and training on how to deal with the multi-layered problems will help to ensure better outcomes for the health of our Veterans.