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An Overload of Opioids for Veterans Seeking ReliefVa Logo

By Randolph Adair

 

The VA is being called out for the increased use of Opioids as veterans return home with complex symptoms and issues from war related trauma.
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Randolph Adair SFYB Staff Reporter

Lately I have seen headlines and stories about the increased opioid addiction rates amongst veterans. The VA is the healthcare provider that is charged to help returning veterans with their injuries and pain from their service in the military. But obviously from the headlines and stories, data shows that there is an exponential increase in the prescriptions for opioids being given out throughout the VA system.

In scouring the internet for veterans’ stories about their addictions, I came across an article in The Center For Investigative Reporting by Aaron Glantz, “VA’s Opiate Overload Feeds Veteran’s Addictions and Overdose Deaths”.

An Overload of Opioids for Veterans Seeking Relief Click to Tweet

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Dr. Stephen Xenakis a doctor and retired brigadier general who served as Commanding General of the Army’s Southeast Regional Medical Command stated that doctors by default are doing what they are trained to do as far as writing a prescription to treat health or physical conditions. The problem is that the opiates end up hurting the veterans more than they help.

There have been strides to put in place an integrative approach and more regulations to control the amount of prescriptions given out. But it is not known how well those regulations are followed and if they are consistently followed across the VA healthcare system, the administrative and medical staff.

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The issues affecting the veteran are complex and with a behemoth system overwhelmed with the volume of trauma and pain of the veterans, an integrative approach requires a lot of thought and time to seek out each individuals root issue.

My focus here is not to judge or make a conclusion or determination about whether the VA is over prescribing pain killers and relaxants, but to get to the root of the issue, the Veteran. What is going on with or inside the returning veteran that doctors are overwhelmingly increasing the number of pain meds to “get rid” or “numb” their pain.

One veteran’s story, Jeffery Waggoner, a paratrooper, was going to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in southern Oregon with a 2 page contract to detox and get clean from his addiction to painkillers. While being treated in the hospital records showed he was doped up to the point he couldn’t stay awake, basically only awaking to take his meds.

Waggoner’s was involved in a rocket-propelled grenade blast in Afganistan. It sent  the VA released him for the weekend with a cocktail of 19 prescription medications, including 12 tablets of highly addictive oxycodone. After a rocket-propelled grenade blast in Afghanistan sent shockwaves through his 6-foot frame, though, he got hooked on government-issued painkillers; mentally, he never recovered.

Waggoner told a nurse at the Roseburg VA hospital that he suffered from severe flashbacks that made him cry out in the middle of the night, strangling his pillow, hitting the wall. He sleepwalked,

He was released for unknown reasons by the hospital for a weekend along with 19 prescription medications of which 12 tablets were oxycodone. At a motel near the hospital he drank 2 beers and swallowed 8 of the oxycodone along with several muscle relaxants and tranquilizers. At a nearby restaurant he then had nachos and another beer and after falling asleep at the counter was assisted back to his motel by the restaurant manager. He was found slumped at his room door but by the time the paramedics arrived it was too late.

During his duty in Afghanistan, Waggoner was involved in a rocket-propelled grenade blast that sent shock waves through his body. He was treated with government issued painkillers and he never recovered mentally.

When Waggoner was at Roseburg VA hospital he told a nurse that “he suffered from severe flashbacks that made him cry out in the middle of the night” and would try to strangle his pillow and beat the wall. He would sometimes sleep walk awaking inside his closet. He also reported he was “still battling the Taliban in the Korengal Valley of his mind”.

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In my work with addiction, whatever the addiction, the client is trying to run, hide from, and bury some deep emotional pain. They will do whatever they have to avoid the pain. They want to feel good so in the case of the drug addict, the drug makes them feel better…Temporarily.

My expertise is being able to step into my client’s life and pinpoint the issues and events that are causing the emotional pain. Waggoner was still reliving the events of Afghanistan. Those events of war and trauma put his body into adrenal overload and he was still locked into the event.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, is the designation for someone who has been submersed in a traumatic event escalating the physical and mental response of “survival”.

Even though he was back home in the US and was safe, his body was still being flooded with the chemicals telling him that he was still inside this life or death situation. The brain is not mechanicals, but chemicals. The traumatic event happened, survival hormones flood the body, the unconscious mind files away the encoded chemicals with the message, when you have this stressor, “ALERT!!! It’s not safe, you better start FIGHTING!”

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A veteran last week shared with me his PTSD experiences. He said someone recently confronted him and for some unknown reason he lapsed back into his experiences back in Vietnam. I explained to him, back in Vietnam he encountered a Survival response that kicked in his adrenal overload. That hormone was encoded in his unconscious memory from Vietnam as a “flight” response, thus taking him back. His unconscious mind learned this survival pattern in Vietnam, kicked back in bringing back all the memories and response.

The thing is the trauma is over. Yes, it happened once, but it’s not still happening. He survived. All that’s real is right now. In order to stop the response you have to break the cycle of replaying the trauma. That involves going in and releasing the painful past experiences and reimprinting what is desired.

My approach in working with PTSD is to remove the drivers. The past is not real, only the present. Letting go of the past, releasing the pain, allows the individual to live in the present moment. Yes the past happened, but we learn from it and then let it go. Keep the “lesson” use that to propel us into the future. We can shut off the adrenal response and reset the “fight, flight or freeze” response.

So my hope is that Jeffery Waggoner’s life be honored and be a testimony for others to break that cycle of trauma and reset their mind to bring peace and joy. Once that cycle is shut down, the addiction can be released as the unconscious mind has found a way to let go of this faulty coping skill.

Randolph is a Mind Performance and Life Coach specializing in Stress, Grief and Addiction. Like and follow his Facebook page by using the icons in his profile below.

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They Bury Their Heads and We Bury Our KidsBig Pharma

I have always wondered why an Ostrich buries its head in the sand and was surprised to find out that it only appears that way. They dig holes in the dirt to use as nests for their eggs.

The saying about someone who hides from the truth that is known as one who buries their head in the sand may also just appear that way at times. However, sometimes it is blatant and intentional. This thought leads me to a topic that recently has ignited a fire within me that cannot be quenched.

Stephen Kavalkovich

SFYB Certified Coach

Turn on the news in any town or hamlet in our country today and we see stories of the drug epidemic that is not going away and only getting worse. Namely, the deaths from Heroin laced with Fentanyl, Elephant tranquilizer, and other “designer” drugs. What infuriates me more than the fact that these synthetic substances are being made with the sole purpose to kill and have no healing or redeeming quality is the Ostrich mentality of many school districts. I live 15 minutes from one of the largest open air drug markets in the world and the schools where our children are learning how to pass standardized tests are shirking their enormous responsibility.

They Bury Their Heads and We Bury Our Kids Click to Tweet

heard buried

While passing a test that is seemingly meaningless in the grand scheme of life brings in federal dollars and fancy technology, the cost of silence is becoming higher than any debt a society could ever accrue. Just in a few local upper middles class municipalities local to me we have lost over fifteen teenagers in the last month to overdose. The highly paid administrators that are given the charge to educate and keep our future leaders safe choose to keep the loudspeakers silent and the assembly room stages empty. Image, budget, and test scores are the focus, not the welfare of those that they are entrusted to protect.

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I was a student who had a D.A.R.E. program in grade school and while it was informative, it didn’t stop me from experimenting to becoming an expert in self destruction. However, at least it was something. Two days ago I learned that a local district with much notoriety, money, and a great sports program ended the D.A.R.E. program because they had too many drug busts. Excuse me? Where do I begin with the criticism of this insanity? So, the police come in and sniff out the poison and they kick them out for doing so? The school district leaders think that if we keep the programs, town halls, and speakers out of the building then the problem isn’t there.

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I remain unapologetic in exposing the painfully obvious truth that the problem is larger with every morning school bell and dismissal. The only way to address a problem is to admit there is one and I am sick to my core with the silence and ignorance. We lost a few kids in my school years from car accidents and maybe one overdose that I recall, but todays numbers make my knees tremble. One student lost to this is tragic, now many and they bow their heads and dig a hole to hide. Sure, they have a memorial service and bring in extra counselors when these things happen, but what about trying to be proactive. These displays are tired and barely even reactive but more of window dressing on a crack house. People exercise and eat right to avoid illness and be healthy, so why no preventive measures?

I learned of a recent overdose death at high school nearby and was contacted by a friend who asked me to call the principal and see if I can come in and talk to the student body about my experience of being a paramedic who wound up dead on my mothers living room floor from the same thing that killed this young person. I left three messages and am still waiting on a call back. I bet if Kanye offered to come in and put on a concert, the budget would be stretched to accommodate in the name of entertaining the kids and getting on the local news

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We live in a world where entertainment is abounding and truth is blurred and covered by memes and tweets. Our kids are in critical condition and it seems to me that the only ones who want to address it are those who have been to the dark places yet don’t have a hit record or a “reality” show on TMZ. The others are the ones who have lost their children that are given a flower arrangement and perhaps a phone call. What is it going to take for someone to listen and open the door? The cold, hard truth needs to be spoken in it’s rawest form. The danger and ugliness of this is reality, not the Real Housewives of whatever city, USA. It’s time to stop burying the heads or we’ll keep burying our kids.

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Steve Consult

Social Media Marketing Healthcare 1

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