Amarillo VA has highest opioid prescribing rate in Texas, working to cut back

Updated: Jan. 17, 2018 at 4:36 PM CST
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Source KFDA
Source KFDA
Source KFDA
Source KFDA

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Amarillo's opioid prescription rate is now 37 percent lower than it was in 2012, according to Central Texas VA's recent report.

"Treatment is shared jointly between the patient and the provider, and then they come together on what is the best treatment for the type of pain the veteran has," said Chief of Staff for Amarillo VA Health Care System Richards Siemens. "Veterans who start out on very high levels of opioids need to be followed very closely.

Once you get above a certain amount, you really are looking at a higher risk of complications. Same thing if they are on some other medications like Benzodiazepines. So we need to look specifically at each veteran and what treats their type of pain the best."

However, Amarillo still holds the highest prescribing rate in Texas.

For this reason, doctors are proactively addressing the needs of each veteran on a case-by-case basis with the hopes of continuing to lower the rates.

"We did start at a higher number, starting at 25 percent five years ago, that's a high number," said Siemens. "It came about in large part as a culture of trying to deal with the veteran's pain, but I think the medical profession looking back would agree, that we relied too much just on the opioids themselves. And maybe there was as many alternatives available then as they are now."

Siemens says it is very important veterans work their entire treatment program instead of solely relying on the narcotics.

"Medications are one piece in treating pain, but it's not the only piece. There are many other alternative therapies," said Chief Pharmacist for Amarillo VA Health Care System John Guide. "Education about what's available to veterans is key. Also providing other therapies such as physical therapies, cognitive behavioral therapy. Some alternative treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic, aqua therapy, all of which we provide in some amounts."

Veterans are also encouraged to stop by the "My HealtheVet" located on the first floor of the hospital for tips and tools to help partner with your health care team, so together you may work to manage your health.

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