Leahy Leads Charge To Research Alternatives To Opioids For Chronic Pain Through Defense Department Health Program WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, June 28, 2018) – Continuing to lead the charge in the Senate Appropriations Committee in the fight against the opioid epidemic, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday steered $10 million to a new research program in the Department of Defense to study alternatives to opioids for chronic pain management. Despite a number of programs meant to help the service community understand and address the potentially harmful effects of long-term opioid abuse, the Department of Defense does not have a comprehensive strategy to research and understand alternatives to opioids to manage chronic pain. Because of this, members of the military rely on these potentially dangerous and highly addictive drugs, which has had severe consequences. A study conducted by the Veterans Administration in 2016 found that those receiving the highest doses of opioid painkillers were more than twice as likely to die by suicide compared to those receiving the lowest doses. And a 2017 study found that over 63 percent of veterans receiving chronic opioid treatment also have a mental health diagnosis. Around the country, the opioid epidemic, fueled by prescription opioids, continues to cost lives and tear apart communities. Leahy, Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said: “The strain of battle and serving in our armed forces has left countless service members suffering from chronic pain, whether from combat-related injuries or from the stress placed on their bodies through training and deployments. For too long we have relied on opioids as a quick fix to this problem. We now know the consequences, and the men and women of our military deserve better. This funding will help the Department of Defense continue to move in the right direction by researching alternatives to opioids to manage chronic pain.” Through Leahy’s efforts, the Defense Appropriations Bill – the annual budget for the Defense Department — approved Thursday by the Appropriations Committee, would direct $10 million through the Congressionally-Directed Medical Research Program for a new program to invest in chronic pain management research and alternatives to opioids.
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