Eyewitness News Investigates: Veterans and Narcotics

Eyewitness News Investigates: Veterans and Narcotics

The number of prescription narcotics written to Central Valley veterans has tripled in recent years. CBS47's Zara Arboleda breaks down the numbers.

Unlike other VA Medical Centers around the country, a preliminary investigation has found no problems with patient wait times or care at the Fresno VA Hospital. In fact, doctors here are trying to prevent another crisis seen I other cities – addiction to narcotic painkillers.

The Center for Investigative Journalism recently compiled data provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It should the number of prescriptions written to veterans nationwide for the four most commonly prescribed narcotics: Hydrocodone (also sold as Vicodin), Methadone, Morphine and Oxycodone.

In 2001, the average number of prescriptions written was 47 per 100 patients. By 2006, that jumped to 81 per 100 patients. By the end of the study, in 2012, doctors wrote 154 prescriptions per 100 patients. That’s an increase of almost 360%.

Pain management specialists say certain patients do need those drugs, but they’re now trying to wean others off of them.

Programs are in place at the Fresno VA to spot signs of potential abuse or addiction. The medical center is also taking a different approach to pain management – incorporating other, less addictive drugs in patients’ regimens, and using alternative methods, like acupuncture. Free yoga and tai chi classes are also available to veterans. Soon, meditation and mindfulness-based stress management classes will also be offered.  

Watch Zara Arboleda’s full report here and click on the related links for veteran resources.

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