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Veterans, Chronic Pain & Alternative Treatment: Inside Appalachia

Roxy Todd/ West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Darren Yowell leads veterans in a mindful yoga class at the Martinsburg VA

It’s been about 20 years since the opioid epidemic started. Appalachia has been called ground zero for this crisis, and the mountain state leads the country in drug overdose deaths. This episode of Inside Appalachia explores how the epidemic is affecting veterans, who are twice as likely to become addicted to opioids, compared with the general, or civilian, population. So some veterans are trying some alternatives to taking opioids for their chronic pain.

We’ll also hear the next installment of Crystal Snyder’s Struggle to Stay story. This week we’ll hear what it’s like for Crystal Snyder, a single mom, to start going back to college. 

Shift in Medical Community Affects Veterans with Chronic Pain

For the past three years, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has begun implementing new pain management recommendations for treating veterans with chronic pain. In 2013 the VA released a new set of guidelines called The Opioid Safety Initiative, which concluded that opioids are not the best treatment for most types of chronic pain. Instead, VA doctors are encouraged to prescribe alternative therapies, like yoga, physical therapy, and chiropractic care.

Yoga and Other Alternative For Pain

How are veterans reacting when they’re prescribed yoga or physical therapy to treat their pain?

We hear from veterans who struggle with chronic pain, how they are dealing with it, and what the VA is doing to help them manage their pain by encouraging alternative treatments instead of opioid therapy. This shift is due in part to a growing body of research showing veterans are at risk of becoming addicted to opioids.

Post-Traumatic Stress and Opioid Addiction

Earlier this year, The Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania released a report that concludes there is a causal link between post-traumatic stress disorder and becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Listen to the episode to hear what this could mean for veterans seeking help for their pain management. 

Music in today’s show was provided by Creeks Don’t Rise, Dinosaur Burps, Marisa  Anderson, Larry Dowling, Ben Townsend, and Heroes are Gang Leaders. Patrick Stephens is our audio mixer. Roxy Todd helped produce. Jesse Wright is our executive producer. He also edited our show this week.

We’d love to hear from you. You can e-mail us at feedback@wvpublic.org. Find us on Twitter @InAppalachia


Jessica covers southern West Virginia for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. You can reach her at jlilly@wvpublic.org.
Roxy Todd joined West Virginia Public Broadcasting in 2014 and works as the producer for Inside Appalachia. She's the recipient of a National Edward R. Murrow Award for "Excellence in Video," for a story about the demands small farmers face in West Virginia. She also won a National PMJA Award For "Best Feature" for her story about the history of John Denver's song "Country Roads." You can reach her at rtodd@wvpublic.org.