Columbus VA clinic distributes Narcan to veterans who may be addicted to pain medication

COLUMBUS (WCMH)–The Columbus Veterans Administration clinic credits its own Narcan distribution program with at least 4 lifesaving heroin overdose reversals.

VA social worker Brenden Wright says the VA has been providing Narcan kits for a couple of years.

“It goes beyond addiction but also targets people who …might be at higher risk for overdose as a result of pain medication,” Wright said.

Wright says VA staff members provide training to patients and family members on how to recognize a possible overdose and how to administer the Narcan.

A veteran of Operation Desert Storm, who asked not to be identified, spoke to NBC4 about the VA’s Narcan program.

“When I came home from the Navy I was…. addicted to pain medication,” he says. He had suffered a serious injury while on active duty and has taken pain pills ever since.

narcan-nasal-spray-genericEarlier this year, VA doctors started tapering back his morphine use from 400 mg per day to 90 mg per day. The veteran says he is now in pain every day.

“I take the morphine to have some quality of life. I’m not taking it to get high. I’m not taking it to sell. I take it to get by.”

He says that when the VA pain clinic handed him a Narcan kit to take home this year, he felt confused.

“It was like they’re giving me a permission slip to go out and use heroin,” he said.

He says he knows of other veterans who have turned to heroin as a result of being removed from the VA pain management program. NBC4 was unable to verify those claims.

Wright says overall, the program has been very well-received by veterans.

“A veteran might take that as, ‘Hey you’ve labeled me as an addict,’ however, that’s not the case. We are simply trying to provide the veterans with resources if it is needed,” he said.

Asked how to describe the heroin problem among veterans, Wright said: “It’s high. It’s a problem not only on a level here in Columbus, Ohio. It’s a national epidemic.”

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