Health

U.S. Veterans Dying From Overmedication by VA

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Some Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are being prescribed dangerous amounts of pain pills by the Veteran's Administration (VA) and are dying from overdoses of narcotics such as Percocet.

"There's an overuse of narcotics. It's the first reflex for pain," Dr. Phyllis Hollenbeck told CBS News.

Dr. Hollenbeck works at a VA medical center in Jackson, Mississippi and has raised her concerns with the federal government, which apparently blew her off.

"The people in charge said, 'We want you to sign off on narcotic prescriptions on patients you don't see.' I was absolutely stunned. And I knew immediately it was illegal. It works on the surface. It keeps the veterans happy. They don't complain. They're not coming in as often if they have their pain medicine. And the people in charge don't care if it's done right," added Dr. Hollenbeck.

The number of patients treated by the VA over the past 11 years is up 29 percent and narcotics prescriptions are up a whopping 259 percent, reports CBS News.

Former service men and women accidentally overdose from narcotics at a 33 percent higher rate than people who are non-veterans in the five states with the highest number of vets.

"I have seen people that have not had an exam of that body part that they're complaining of pain in for two years. It's easier to write a prescription for narcotics, and just move along, get to the next patient," said a VA doctor, who didn't want to be identified.

"We're letting people come in and prescribing massive doses of narcotics and they also are on drugs for mental health problems."

Dr. Robert Kerns, director of pain management for the VA, responded the statistics: "Providers are trained to have a thoughtful discussion with their patient to share concerns about the limited potential benefit of these medications, but also these risks that we are talking about today."

Source: CBS News

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