The Veteran Administration's "Opioid Safety Initiative" – as fine an example of doublespeak as you'll see – succeeded in reducing opioid prescriptions by 64% in less than a decade. That's just fine if you're prepared to accept the accompanying 75% increase in rural veteran suicides. Drs. Jeffrey Singer and Josh Bloom are not. Here's their opinion piece in The Virginian-Pilot.
For more than a decade, policymakers and public health officials have incorrectly blamed the worsening overdose crisis on doctors prescribing opioids to their patients in pain. During this time physicians have been pressured to reduce opioid prescribing, only to see the overdose rate more than double since 2010 — even as opioid prescribing was cut nearly in half.
In early August, a study showed that tapering chronic pain patients off opioids led to a dramatic increase in mental health crises, suicide attempts and overdoses. It is not surprising, then, that we now learn this anti-opioid policy has had a devastating effect on America’s veterans.
Indeed, a recent study investigated the results of the Opioid Safety Initiative (OSI), a poorly conceived plan implemented in 2013 by the Veterans Health Administration to discourage opioid prescribing and dependence. OSI “succeeded” in that it caused opioid prescribing to drop 41% between from 2012 to 2017, and 64% by 2020. But, as with chronic pain patients in the general population, the curtailment had a big impact on veterans’ mental health, especially rural veterans who are more likely to get health care through the VA.
#Reprinted with permission. The entire op-ed can be read here.