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”.

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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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Randolph Adair has been called a “Mind and Soul Mechanic”. He is a Life Coach/Mind Performance Coach who sees clients Worldwide. With a focus on “self-empowerment”, he helps individuals experience life and perform at the level they were intended to live. Many times people feel they are held back by past memories, events, and traumas that has gotten them off their desired life’s path. He directs his clients in goal setting, career path, past/present relationships, phobias, weight loss, addiction, grief, unwanted repetitive/recycling behaviors, and health/wellness. His work is successfully applied in business/corporate setting and in sports mind performance in handling stresses and improving emotional intelligence.

“What makes me unique is my ability to step into a client’s life and pinpoint their unconscious programs and beliefs causing emotional and physical pain and chaos. These programs are causing them to be “stuck” in patterns that are not serving them. I help them neutralize those feelings and emotions and replace them with their desired feelings, vision and goals. Many times the results are immediate and startling as their focus shifts from what they have been doing and don’t want, to optimism and pursuit of what they most desire. It is self-empowerment at its best.”

Randolph uses a synthesis of NLP, EFT, Hypnosis, Matrix Reimprinting, Memory Reconsolidation and other mind science modalities to bring about change. He draws on his extensive life experiences via his own pursuit of faith and empowerment through his yoga and meditation practice. He also applies his pragmatic background from an extensive 20 year background in the healing arts and physical rehabilitation as an occupational therapist with a diverse range of practice encompassing pediatrics, schools, and acute, inpatient, outpatient settings.
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