The Marine Corps is taking steps to reduce opioid addiction by providing support to veterans who use opioids for pain control and for treatment, according to a report released Wednesday by the Office of Naval Research.
The report, which is part of the Naval War College’s Center for the Study of War and Society, found that the Marines and Navy both received the highest number of referrals from Veterans Affairs.
That was a big surprise to many of the veterans who were told that they would have to wait for a VA referral before getting the VA treatment they needed, according.
“It’s been well documented that the VA referral rate is very low in the Marine Corps,” the report said.
“It has been well known for some time that the service members who are referred to VA for opioid treatment are the most at risk for addiction.
But we didn’t know how much the service member’s health care provider and the VA was spending on referrals.”
The report found that, in 2014, the Navy spent $2.8 million to support veterans who had opioid addiction.
The Marine corps spent $1.3 million.
The Marines were the largest spenders of VA resources in the report.
According to the report, the Marines spent $3.3 billion on opioid addiction treatment in 2014.
The Marine Corps’ support for opioid addiction was significant, but not surprising, said Sarah Kastner, a professor of health policy at the University of Texas.
The service members that received the most care were also those who were the most likely to have the most chronic pain.
Kastner said the report highlights the need to have a robust and systematic approach to addressing the problem.
“We need to be looking at this in terms of a system of care, which I think we all agree needs to be focused on, including the medical providers, the nurses, the psychologists, the social workers, the physical therapists,” she said.