Buchanan Backs Bill to Study Painkillers' Roll in Vet Suicides

WASHINGTON – Veterans are twice as likely as civilians to die from overdoses of opioid painkillers. The Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act would require the Veterans Affairs Department to review the deaths of all veterans treated by the VA who died by suicide or from a drug overdose in the last five years.

The high rates of suicide and drug overdose deaths in the veteran community are unacceptable," said Congressman Vern Buchanan (R-Longboat Key), who co-sponsored the bill. "This legislation is critical to learning if prescription drugs, specifically opioid painkillers, are a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths among veterans."

The bill, introduced by Rep. Mike Coffman, R-CO, specifically calls for a listing of "any medications that carried a black box warning, were prescribed for off-label use, were psychotropic, or carried warnings that include suicidal ideation." The new information would be used to better treat veterans suffering from mental and physical injuries sustained as a result of their service. 

20 veterans commit suicide every day, according to the VA, accounting for 18 percent of all U.S. suicides. Florida has the third-highest number of veterans in the country, with 1.5 million, with more than 88,000 in Buchanan's district.

Buchanan has been out in front in terms of supporting efforts to secure funding to confront the severe opioid crisis that has taken root in Florida, some of the worst of which is centered in his district.

Editor's Note:
Veterans Crisis Line: Veterans, Service members, and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text message to 838255, or chat online to receive free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care.