Investigative
2:17 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

In Michigan, sharp increase in opiate prescriptions to veterans

The Department of Veteran Affairs may be overprescribing opiates to veterans — and in some cases, prescribing to those with known opiate addictions.

An investigative report from PRX and the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that the VA agency “has issued more than one opiate prescription per patient, on average, for the past two years.”

From the report:

“Prescriptions of four potent opiates (hydrocodone, methadone, morphine, and oxycodone) to veterans have more than tripled since 9/11, contributing to drug abuse, addiction and suicide. The Department of Veterans Affairs is trying to combat the problem, but results vary dramatically across the nation.”

At the five VA system headquarters in Michigan, the number of opiates prescriptions per 100 patients has significantly increased over the last decade.

Here’s a list of the five headquarters in Michigan, ranked in order of highest increase of opiate prescriptions.

1. Detroit:

In 2001, there were 11.2 opiate prescriptions per 100 patients.

In 2012, there were 143.5 opiate prescriptions per 100 patients.

Overall increase: 1,820.88%

2. Battle Creek:

In 2001, there were 20.7 opiate prescriptions per 100 patients.

In 2012, there were 172.8 opiate prescriptions per 100 patients.

Overall increase: 1,377.37%

3. Iron Mountain:

In 2001, there were 20.4 opiate prescriptions per 100 patients.

In 2012, there were 126.3 opiate prescriptions per 100 patients.

Overall increase: 735.08%

4. Saginaw:

In 2001, there were 40.3 opiate prescriptions per 100 patients.

In 2012, there were 170.8 opiate prescriptions per 100 patients.

Overall increase: 593.02%

5. Ann Arbor:

In 2001, there were 52.6 opiate prescriptions per 100 patients.

In 2012, there were 99.6 opiate prescriptions per 100 patients.

Overall increase: 247.11%

Here's the radio documentary produced around this investigation from PRX's Reveal:

- Melanie Kruvelis, Michigan Radio Newsroom