Soldiers Opioid Use Decreases

army yoga

By Debbie Gregory.

Members of the armed forces are not immune to the substance use problems that affect the rest of society. The Army’s efforts to find alternate methods of pain management for active duty soldiers have resulted in a decrease of opioid use by more than 3 percentage points.

From 2012 to 2016, opioid use fell from about 10.5 percent to about 7 percent.

“This addiction problem recognizes no distinction between those who wear the uniform and those who don’t,” said Lt. Gen. Nadja West, speaking at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.

With that said, studies have shown that soldiers and veterans use opioid painkillers, essentially the chemical equivalent of heroin, far more frequently than civilians because their military training, combat -related injuries and the strains from carrying heavy equipment during multiple deployments likely play a role in this trend.

A 2012 report prepared for the DoD by the Institute of Medicine (IOM Report) recommended ways of addressing the problem of substance use in the military, including increasing the use of evidence-based prevention and treatment interventions, while expanding access to care.

The report also recommended broadening insurance coverage to include effective outpatient treatments and better equipping healthcare providers to recognize and screen for substance use problems so they can refer patients to appropriate, evidence-based treatment when needed. It also recommends measures like limiting access to alcohol on bases.

At that time, the Army implemented changes that included limiting the duration of prescriptions for opioid pain relievers to six months, and having a pharmacist monitor a soldier’s medications when multiple prescriptions were being used.

Now officials have shifted their focus to seek out alternatives to prescribing medication, including meditation, tai chi, acupuncture and yoga.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Research Links Agent Orange Exposure to Bladder Cancer and Hypothyroidism


vietnam agent orange

By Debbie Gregory.

Millions of Vietnam War veterans were exposed to Agent Orange, an herbicide that contained dioxin and other dangerous toxins and potential cancer-causing agents. The military used the herbicide to wipe out the foliage and trees to impede the enemy’s ability to hide.

Exposure to the chemical has resulted in increased rates of cancer, and nerve, digestive, skin, and respiratory disorders, in particular, higher rates of acute/chronic leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, throat cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, Ischemic heart disease, soft tissue sarcoma and liver cancer.

Now a new review of Agent Orange research has uncovered evidence that bladder cancer and hypothyroidism are more strongly linked to exposure to the herbicide than previously thought.

The 1,115-page review released by the Institute of Medicine on the health effects of Agent Orange also recommended the Veterans Affairs Department grant service-connected presumption to veterans with “Parkinson’s-like symptoms,” not just those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease related to Agent Orange exposure.

“There is no rational basis for exclusion of individuals with Parkinson’s-like symptoms from the service-related category denoted as Parkinson’s disease,” members of the IOM panel wrote in the report.

The upgrade for bladder cancer and hypothyroidism from the category “inadequate or insufficient evidence” to “limited or suggestive evidence,” of a link, as well as the recommendation to include Parkinson’s-like symptoms to the service-connected list could pave the way for thousands of veterans to receive health care and disability compensation from VA.

The report, released March 10, was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Institute of Medicine is part of the private nonprofit National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.