Veterans Affairs official in Washington DC is expected to discuss the impact of opioids- specifically its effects on suicidal fatalities, during the National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in April.
The Agenda for the summit states that the VA representatives will touch on the data associated with prescription drug discontinuation. According to statistics taken between 2011 and 2014, the discontinuation of prescription drugs led to increased survival rates among suicide attempts.
The VA’s participation in the summit and presentation of analysis and data has been confirmed, although members of the summit and anti-drug lobbyists clarified that all data and presented information will be peer reviewed before finalized.
A Call To Action
The upcoming April summit agenda will follow the conversations of the February Summit, where the VA announced their plan to help prevent veteran suicide. This brought stakeholders and leaders together to discuss all current research, data, and work towards finding measurable steps to reduce the high statistics.
“We know that every day, approximately 22 Veterans take their lives, and that is too many,” said VA secretary of health, Dr. David Shulkin. “We must and will do more, and this summit, coupled with recent announcements about improvements to enhance and accelerate progress at the Veterans Crisis Line, shows that our work and commitment must continue.”
There have already been some changes and plans for prevention that were decided upon during the February Summit. Some of these include:
- Elevating VA’s suicide prevention program with additional resources to manage and strengthen current programs and initiatives
- Meeting urgent mental health needs by providing Veterans with the goal of same-day evaluations and access by the end of the calendar year 2016
- Establishing a new standard of care by using measures of Veteran-reported symptoms to tailor mental health treatments to individual needs
- Launching a new study, “Coming Home from Afghanistan and Iraq,” to look at the impact of deployment and combat as it relates to suicide, mental health, and well-being
- Using predictive modeling to guide early interventions for suicide prevention
- Using data on suicide attempts and overdoses for surveillance to guide strategies to prevent suicide
- Increasing the availability of naloxone rescue kits throughout VA to prevent deaths from opioid overdoses
- Enhancing Veteran Mental Health access by establishing three regional tele-mental health hubs
- Continuing to partner with the Department of Defense on suicide prevention and other efforts for a seamless transition from military service to civilian life.
Since the Summit earlier this month, more research has been done and has led to the conclusion that opioid and prescription drugs in general play a large role in Veteran Suicides. When prescription drugs were reduced, survival rates of suicide attempts were much higher. The VA plans to discuss how regulation of prescription drugs in tandem with the other efforts of prevention is a strong force in the fight against Veteran suicide.
It’s not set in stone what will be said at the April summit, but it’s rumored to have a large part of the discussion based around mental health and the dangers of prescribing opioids to those who are mentally unstable. This, of course, will lead to their original points of balancing mental health and then lead to the negative effects of blindly prescribing to failing to address the root of the problem.
Will the Summit Make a Change?
The difficulty in addressing the opioid epidemic among veterans is that there are real issues going on way beyond addiction. 50% of Vets experience chronic pain and 2 out of every 10 experience PTSD or some form of post-trauma depression. These two kinds of disorders go hand in hand, and although medication is used to treat them-it can also worsen the depression and mental side.
The VA reps will present their thoughts alongside professionals of the matter in order to devise an appropriate plan backed by accurate data, and hopefully, begin to make a real change in the unfortunate opioid/suicide epidemic in the united states.