VA Sheds Light on Opioid Prescribing Habits

Recognizing that overprescribing pain medication can be problematic for veterans, the VA has begun publicly posting data on how frequently doctors prescribe opioids. Former VA Secretary David Shulkin explained that the move would help, “provide a clearer picture of VA facilities that are successfully responding to the problem.”

The VA’s opioid safety initiative, which was started back in 2012, effectively decreased the amount of opioids being prescribed to veterans. However, while some facilities in some states have seen a significant decrease in opioid prescriptions, others still show troubling numbers.

The non-VA opioid crisis

While the VA reports percentage rate decreases in opioid prescriptions across its facilities, the rest of the country is not faring so well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “opioid overdoses increased by roughly 30 percent across the US in just 14 months between 2016 and 2017.” Some other troubling statistics provided by the CDC include:

  • 70,237 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2017
  • Opioids are the primary cause of drug overdose deaths.
  • In 2017, 5 areas had the highest rate of overdose deaths: West Virginia (57.8 per 100,000), Ohio (46.3 per 100,000), Pennsylvania (44.3 per 100,000), the District of Columbia (44.0 per 100,000), and Kentucky (37.2 per 100,000)
  • 67.8 percent of all drug overdose deaths (47,600), involved opioids

And contrary to popular belief, the problem is not limited to one age group, demographic or area. Opioid addiction rates are up in all states — rural and metropolitan. In fact, metropolitan areas that had 1 million or more people had the most dramatic increase — 54 percent.


The current infrastructure cannot handle the opioid epidemic that is ravaging the country. To keep this devastating wave at bay, the country requires a multi-faceted approach. Some key methods for combatting the crisis include:

  • Communities need access to readily available reverse-overdose drugs like naloxone.
  • More emphasis should be placed on ensuring citizens have access to mental health services and medication-assisted addiction treatment.
  • Physicians should be using prescription monitoring services.
  • Big pharma should be held accountable for selling addictive painkillers and encouraging doctors to overprescribe them for non-cancerous ailments.

Opioids were initially designed to treat pain. Today, they are causing tremendous pain for families from coast to coast.

Experienced Santa Barbara attorneys advocate for opioid addiction victims

No matter if you are a veteran, active-service member, or regular citizen, if you suffer because of an unnecessary opioid prescription, the Bertling Law Group is ready to hear your story. With more than 30 years of legal experience, we can provide you with personalized counsel at every turn. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your claim opioid law attorney, contact us at 844-295-7558.