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New legislation offers hope for U.S. military alternatives to opioids for chronic pain

opioids for chronic pain

New CBD and chiropractic legislation looks to bring additional non-drug relief in regard to addiction and opioids for chronic pain

The U.S. military is tasked with protecting our nation’s interests, both domestically and on foreign ground. Yet, until recently, these warriors had limited options for dealing with chronic pain as a result of injuries sustained while on active duty. This has contributed to a number of issues, two of which include increased rates of abuse of opioids for chronic pain and suicide.

Military and opioids for chronic pain (and abuse)

Research published in the journal Substance Use & Misuse indicates that roughly 14% of active-duty Army personnel are currently taking prescribed opioids for chronic pain. Additionally, overdose due to opioid addiction and other substances has “increased dramatically” in both active-duty and veteran personnel in recent years.

Certain military personnel are especially prone to the abuse of these substances according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). This includes those who have been deployed numerous times, those who have witnessed combat, and those who have suffered injuries as a result of that combat.

Suicide among servicemembers

The Center for Deployment Psychology adds that suicide among both active-duty service members and veterans is also on the rise, making it the second leading cause of death for this subset of the population.

Though relationship issues, legal problems, and workplace struggles are some of the most common reasons for military suicide, medical conditions increase the risk as well. Chronic pain, traumatic brain injury, and sleep disorders all contribute to the decision to end their own lives.

Since opioids for chronic pain is an underlying cause of both abuse and suicide, treating this issue can go a long way with reducing the risk of both. New legislation may ease the path for military personnel seeking relief.

New amendment offers military personnel more pain relief options

In early 2020, Representative Tulsi Gabbard enacted a positive amendment to the Department of Defense’s decision to prohibit the use of CBD by service members, even though the Farm Bill of 2018 made this substance legal under federal law.

CBD stands for cannabidiol, a hemp plant extract connected to a variety of health-related benefits such as pain relief, reduced anxiety, and help with sleep – all issues military personnel face on a regular basis. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not create a psychoactive effect.

In a post on Representative Gabbard’s website, it explains that, though approved by the House, it is still up to the Senate to review and possibly request a modification of this amendment. In the meantime, it is a step in the right direction because, if this bill is passed, it would offer active and retired military personnel the ability to treat their chronic pain using natural substances versus taking prescription medications that could too easily escalate into an abuse type of situation. This relief could also reduce their likelihood to consider suicide the only viable option for ending their pain.

Research on CBD for pain

Several studies support the notion that CBD helps ease not only pain in general but also difficult to treat pain.

One such piece of research was published in Therapeutics for Clinical Risk Management and indicates that some studies have noted a 30% reduction in pain after cannabinoid consumption. This was after only five days of treatment.

Also, many study participants further reported that cannabinoid use had another benefit of providing more restful sleep. This reduction of insomnia was attributed to the way cannabinoids help relieve symptoms contributing to poor sleep versus being sedative in nature.

Chiropractic as part of an effective pain-relief plan

Chiropractic care is also an effective part of a pain-relief plan for our nation’s military. Especially since studies note that musculoskeletal diagnoses within the armed forces are fairly common, with rates somewhere around 43% for the U.S. Navy specifically. Most of the time, the diagnosis involves back and neck pain.

A literature review in The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association further states that, while 7.4-11% of the civilian population engages in chiropractic care, as much as one-third of the those serving for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps use some type of complementary and alternative medicine.

Now CBD can potentially become part of the treatment plan, with a clinical summary published in Practical Pain Management reporting that many organizations, from governmental to private, now support the use of therapies that don’t involve taking drugs or undergoing surgery. This is largely due to the opioid epidemic at play in the U.S. today.

Congress is also currently considering the Chiropractic Medicare Coverage Modernization Act of 2019, which would provide Medicare coverage for all physicians’ services furnished by doctors of chiropractic within the scope of their license, providing additional relief for military veterans.

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