Alternative Therapies, Interdisciplinary Teams, Access to Telementoring Contribute to the Solution

At a hearing convened last week of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee about overmedication concerns, Brig. Gen. Norvell V. Coots, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Command and assistant surgeon general for force projection outlined initiatives underway to reduce reliance on opioid medications by armed services patients with pain conditions.

An Army-led Pain Management Task Force was convened in 2010, in conjunction with members of other services and the Veterans Health Administration, to examine best practices for pain management at 28 medical centers. One of the task force recommendations was to explore alternative treatments such as acupuncture, meditation and biofeedback. In 2011, 26 percent of all service members were prescribed at least one type of opioid medication. That number was brought down to 24 percent last year, partly due to the use of acupuncture, yoga and other alternatives to medication. "It is a small difference, but I think it still represents a big cultural change and a move ahead," Coots told the committee. Read a news story about the initiatives underway here.

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