An estimated 24 veterans commit suicide EVERYDAY: substandard pain care?

VA reduces number of Veterans prescribed opioids by 67% since 2012

WASHINGTON Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it has reduced the number of Veterans with opioid prescriptions by 67% since 2012, from 874,897 Veterans in 2012 to 288,820 in 2023 — while continuing to provide comprehensive, world-class pain management to Veterans. Beating the opioid epidemic is a key pillar in President Biden’s Unity Agenda for the nation, and today’s announcement reinforces the importance of preventing opioid addiction.

VA has adopted a Whole Health approach to Veteran-centered pain care, which focuses on the Veteran as a whole person and provides evidence-based treatment via interdisciplinary pain management teams, rather than relying on one treatment. As outlined in VA’s Stepped Care Model for Pain Management, VA helps Veterans manage their pain by providing foundational services at each facility across the enterprise — including nutrition and weight management, movement and exercise, quality sleep, and relaxation techniques that are delivered through a personalized health plan and supported by whole health coaches.

“More than a third of Veterans who use VA live with chronic pain, so it’s a top priority for us to help them manage that pain safely and effectively,” said VA’s Under Secretary for Health Shereef Elnahal, M.D. “By providing comprehensive pain-management tools, we can often avoid the need for potentially addictive medications or invasive procedures. Our goal is to help Veterans live full, meaningful, pain-free lives — and we will continue to look for new ways to help Veterans do exactly that.”

This progress is largely due to VA’s Opioid Safety Initiative (OSI), which first launched in 2013. VA has achieved this reduction through significant investment in interdisciplinary pain management teams, a sustained focus on increasing access to proven therapies and treatments, and by updating opioid treatment guidelines and implementing best practices.

VA also reduced the number of patients receiving opioids and benzodiazepines together by 90%, from 162,444 in 2012 to 15,981 Veterans in 2023; reduced the number of patients on long-term opioid medications by 71%, from 569,207 in 2012 to 162,261 in 2023; and reduced the number of patients on high doses of opioids by 81%, from 76,444 in 2012 to 14,733 in 2023. The majority of Veterans who do receive opioid prescriptions from VA get them for short-term pain care, such as for surgery or an injury. For patients on long-term opioid therapy for chronic pain conditions, VA uses a patient-centered approach that treats and monitors each Veteran individually according to their needs.

VA has also decreased opioid prescription significantly since 2020, the last time VA publicly reported these numbers. Specifically, VA has reduced the number of Veterans prescribed opioids by 16% since 2020; reduced the number of patients receiving opioids and benzodiazepines together by 26% since 2020; reduced the number of patients on long-term opioids by 27% since 2020; and reduced the number of patients on high doses of opioids by 19% since 2020.

The 2012 and 2020 numbers below have been updated from the previous release due to a change in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracking measures:

Tracking Measure 2012 2020 2023
Patients receiving opioids 874,897 345,910 288,820
Patients receiving opioids and benzodiazepines together 162,444 21,828 15,981
Patients on long-term opioids 569,207 219,639 162,261
Patients dispensed greater than or equal to 100 Morphine Equivalent Daily Dose (high dose morphine) 76,444 18,343 14,733

Veteran pain care at VA is broadly divided into five categories, including medication, restorative therapies, interventional procedures, behavioral health approaches, and complimentary and integrative health.

Learn more about the VA Opioid Safety Initiative or VA pain management.  


3 Responses

  1. Wow, those numbers are looking phenomenal, VA! Unless, of course, you’re a veteran. And then you probably know exactly what those numbers really mean. All of those numbers = torture. Torture of the men and women who served our country, only to be patted on the head and told how much pain relief they’re “actually” getting from those alternative methods and promised that if they can just hold on another 20-30 years, there will be exciting breakthroughs in the world of pain management. Get ready, guys! It’ll only be 3 more decades before you MIGHT have real pain relief again! Woo. How utterly despicable.

  2. omg,,just realize that math is wrong and it worse,,168×4=672 x12 month =8064 a year ,times 10 years,=80,640 vets are dead,,since to forced reduction or forced cessation of the medicine’s opiates for their medical condition,thats horrendous!!!!!!!!!!!!!maryw

  3. Absolutly,,,lets do the math,24×7=168 x12=2,016 x 10 years=22176,,, DEATH IS THE 10 years span,,either by forced reduction/stoppage of the medicine opiates.,,,Soo at least 25 % of alll suicides are from their forced reduction because of a archaic prejudicial bias of the medicine opiates..from addictionist who stood to make thee most money off of deeming all medically ill in physical pain the new definition of addicts,,,wow,,,,No wonder why Tammy Baldwin refuse to allow a box on all death certificates,”death due to forced physical pain,,when 25 % of all suicides are due to forced reductions/complete cessation of any opiate medicine for are vets
    I’ll swear till my death,,my pancreatitis’ issue has been worsen’s severely by my metabolism now going faster w/my forced reduction,How much more Creon
    at 75 .00$$$$ a month verses 20 bucks for the effective dose of my medicine opiates,that slowed my metabolism,thus less enzyme/sugar level high,and a once perfect bp for 15 years,,ie 110/70 with my once effective dose,,now my bp is alll over the map,,,along w/hr..Not to mention that lymes coming back 3 times,,They are killing us,,either by many using death to stop there once treated physical pain,or our medical issue now accelerated via forced down to lower non-effective doses of the medicine opiates,,,jmo,,maryw

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