August 25, 2010
Prescription opioid use disorders (OUDs) are the fastest growing form of drug abuse in the U.S. As more than half of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) Veterans have been diagnosed with a painful condition, they are potential candidates for opioid therapy and are at risk for developing these OUDs. Moreover, the Army report "Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention," released in July 2010, stated, "data would suggest (the Army is) becoming more dependent on pharmaceuticals to sustain the force." The Report found that 14% of soldiers are on some form of prescription medication -- the majority of which are painkillers.
Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) through the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Teresa Hudson, Pharm.D., and Mark Edlund, M.D., Ph.D., will lead a study on opioid use among OEF/OIF Veterans. Using VA data, investigators will examine the circumstances under which pain medications are prescribed and how they are used. In 2010, the VA implemented new guidelines for prescribing opioids. Therefore, this study will examine data two years prior to the new guidelines and three years after (FY08-FY13) in order to assess any patterns and/or changes in the use of drugs. This information should help healthcare providers determine factors that put Veterans at risk for addiction.
Dr. Hudson is part of HSR&D's Center for Mental Healthcare and Outcomes Research, located in Little Rock, AR. She and Dr. Edlund are both affiliated with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Information about this study has appeared in various news media, including the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http//www.arkansasonline.com.