Pain and Opioid Use in U.S. Soldiers: The Imperative for Researching Effective Pain Management Options in the Military
A study published in last month’s JAMA Internal Medicine found an alarming high prevalence of chronic pain (44.0%) and opioid use (15.1%) in the U.S. military after combat deployment. These rates, much higher than estimated rates in the general public (26% and 4%, respectively), remind us of the burdens faced by returning soldiers after deployments, and their urgent and unmet needs for managing chronic pain. Opioids alone cannot be the answer. These findings reinforce our commitment to research how to improve pain management, a high priority in NCCAM’s Third Strategic Plan (2011–2015).
The Center has prioritized working with the military and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to study nonpharmacologic approaches to managing pain. NCCAM Program Director Dr. Kristen Huntley has previously blogged about the Center’s interest in supporting research on complementary approaches for pain management in military and veteran populations and the Center’s three related funding opportunity announcements for researching nonpharmacologic approaches to managing pain and comorbid conditions.
NCCAM has established a Working Group of our Advisory Council to advise us on collaborations with the Department of Defense and VA on research of these problems. The group is charged with advising our Center on developing a potential initiative, suggesting strategies for collaboration among Federal agencies, and providing recommendations for implementing such an initiative. The Working Group is currently engaged in a series of deliberations.
The members of the NCCAM Advisory Council Working Group are:
- Lloyd Michener, M.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Community and Family Medicine; Director, Duke Center for Community Research, Duke School of Medicine
- Stephen Ezeji-Okoye, M.D., Deputy Chief of Staff, VA Palo Alto Health Care System
- Tracy Gaudet, M.D., Director, Office of Patient-Centered Care and Cultural Transformation, Veterans Health Administration
- Richard Niemtzow, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., Colonel (Ret), USAF, MC, FS, CAM Consultant USAF Surgeon General; director, USAF Acupuncture Center
- Eric Schoomaker, M.D., Ph.D., Lieutenant General, U.S. Army Surgeon General (Ret), Scholar-in-Residence, Distinguished Professor of Military and Emergency Medicine, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences
We are strongly committed to working with other Federal agencies to identify and support rigorous research that will aid military personnel and veterans. I’m looking forward to hearing from the Working Group soon.
- Toblin RL, Quartana PJ, Riviere LA, et al. Chronic pain and opioid use in U.S. soldiers after combat deployment. JAMA Internal Medicine. Published online June 30, 2014.
- Jonas WB, Schoomaker EB. Pain and opioids in the military: we must do better. JAMA Internal Medicine. Published online June 30, 2014.