A 2011 report conducted by the Institute of Medicine revealed that more than 100 million Americans are suffering from chronic pain. According to a study published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association, 44% of U.S. military members have reported chronic pain after returning home from deployment.
“Many rely on (only) opioids to manage pain,” Dr. Josephine P. Briggs, director of the NCCIH, said. There were more than 16,235 deaths involving prescription opioids in 2013, an increase of 1% from 2012. These numbers are concerning to many, including President Obama. The president’s drug control priorities for the 2016 fiscal year include reducing prescription drug abuse by allocating additional funding to states with prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), expanding and improving treatment for addicts, and spearheading efforts to make naloxone — an opioid antagonist — more readily available to first responders.
“While these drugs are key to managing certain types of pain, such as acute pain following surgery, the use for chronic, long-term pain can become problematic,” Briggs said.
Bob Twillman, executive director of the American Academy of Pain Management, in a previous interview suggested the following for pain management: acupuncture, chiropractic, psychotherapy and physical therapy. He believes expanding access and providing reimbursement for these alternative methods will bring down prescription opioid abuse.
Managing pain within the military population can be little more complex, Briggs noted. For example, many returning service members have co-existing conditions such as PTSD, traumatic brain injury, drug addiction and sleep disorders.
“The logical next step for NCCIH is to assess the feasibility of undertaking one or more large-scale studies in cooperation with the VA and the DOD to answer core policy and patient care questions about the use of integrative approaches in pain management,” she said. “NCCIH has a growing intramural research program and a robust extramural portfolio in pain research and we have experience in real-world research through our work with the NIH Healthcare Systems Research Collaboratory and our work with the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).”
For more information on the treatment of chronic pain for veterans, contact Franklin Pain and Wellness Center.