Nearly 600,000 veterans misused opioids in 2019. Around 555,000 veterans misused a prescription pain reliever in 2019, while 57,000 misused heroin.
Veterans are at high risk for opioid use disorder (OUD) as compared to the general population for several reasons. Veterans may have injuries that are chronic and are therefore likely to be prescribed opioids for chronic pain conditions. Veterans also often suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and other mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression which can predispose to substance use disorders.
Veterans make up a specialty population that is prescribed opioids at high rates, yet only about two out of every three veterans with OUD are receiving the evidence-based treatment and recovery services that they require and deserve.
Access to Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) services through the VA (Veterans Affairs) is increasing. In 2014, approximately 34% of VA patients with OUD were receiving MAT, which is a significant increase from 2004 when only 25% were receiving these services.
Expanded access to MAT can improve treatment and recovery outcomes for military veterans with OUD.