Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the number of opiate prescriptions by doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs has skyrocketed. According to data obtained by The Center for Investigative Reporting, prescriptions for four opiates – hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone and morphine – have surged by 270 percent in the past 12 years. For the last two years, the data shows the agency has issued more than one opiate prescription per patient, on average.
In interviews, advocates and experts said the rising prescription rate confirmed their worst fears: that the VA is overmedicating its patients as it struggles to keep up with their need for more complex treatment.
Most doctors only have a medical-school approach to addiction and don't understand the danger of over-prescribing. They also don't do well with being powerless in the face of human suffering, and so it is easier for them to feel they are helping by prescribing a drug that 'makes the pain go away.'
The connection between psychological suffering and physical suffering is only beginning to be understood. We all know about psychosomatic disorders, where the mind effects the body. However, there really isn't a holistic approach when it comes to medical treatment these days, since this flies in the face of the 'specialist' system we presently operate under.
I have seen people fall into addiction through over-prescription, those who otherwise would not have gotten into drugs or any other addictive behavior were it not for their 'allergic reaction' to pain meds. The new meds, in fact, don't even need an allergic reaction: they automatically create a sense of euphoria that is very hard for the average person to not want to experience again.
Think about it: how many of us would say 'no' to the opportunity to feel really, really good... especially after having tasted it?
It reminds me of an old movie, "The Last Detail," where a couple of sailors take a fellow bluejacket out for a last 'experience of life' before sending him to prison for eight years. The young man had never done any of the things they would eventually introduce him to, and in the end they sent him to the prison with his heart filled with desires for the things he would not experience again for almost a decade: the cruelest form of punishment.
Again, I think that 'taper-off kits' need to be part of any pain med prescription, and open-ended prescriptions should be managed by pain management teams rather than single doctors with little accountability.