The U.S. Army enlists Tai Chi in the fight against addiction

Recently, the Uniformed Services University (USU) of the Health Sciences reported that it is collaborating with West Virginia University to pool resources to combat the growing opioid crisis in West Virginia. On the Department of Defense ‘s (DOD) website, it states that USU’s Defense and Veterans Center for Integrative Pain Management (DVCIPM)’s experience in managing the opioid misuse over the past several years would be applicable to civilians.

With two major wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the past 17 years along with the aging veterans from World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War, pain management is a top concern for the health of our service men and women in uniform. The conventional method of using painkillers or narcotics is not effective and even dangerous; therefore, the army embarked alternatives in 2009. Former Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen Eric Schoomaker (see the attached video below) once stated that pain management is a complicate issue and requires multiple modalities of treatments. Under his leadership, his office formed Pain Management Task Force and produced a comprehensive report how to manage the pain. The task force’s efforts also led to the development of DVCIPM, which was chosen as a Center of Excellence at DOD last year. Lt. Gen. Schoomaker was quoted that “We now have good evidence for the use of non-pharmacologic, non-opioid treatments, such as yoga, guided imagery, medical massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, Tai Chi, as well as a closely related movement therapy called Qigong, and music therapy…We have pretty good research to endorse their use.”

Overdose Deaths Involving Opioids

Overdose Deaths Involving Opioids

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdose deaths continue to grow in the United States and more than six out of ten drug overdose deaths involve an opioid. More than half a million people died from drug overdoses in 2000-2015. 91 Americans die daily from an opioid overdose. Many of the addicts who died of heroin, cocaine, and other illegal drugs were originally prescribed opioids, i.e. methadone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, etc., by doctors due to surgeries, acute pains, or chronic pains. It is alarming that the sales of prescription opioids in the U.S. almost quadrupled from 1999 to 2015. According to Annual Surveillance Report of Drug-Related Risks and Outcomes published by the CDC, in 2016 prescribers wrote 66.5 opioid for every 100 Americans (including children) and in some of the states and counties the prescription numbers were a few times the nation’s average. In many cases, opioids don’t eliminate or even reduce the pains; furthermore, they can cause depression, nausea, and other health risks aside from the fatality.

According to the CDC, the overdose death rate in West Virginia was an estimated 41.5 per 100,000 people in 2015, an increase of about 17 percent from the previous year, and over three times the national average. Cabell County in southern West Virginia has a population of 96,000 including children, and an estimated 10,000 of those are addicted to opioids. With the daunting situation in the state, West Virginia University reached out to DVCIPM for assistance. Both DVCIPM and West Virginia University are enthusiastic about this new collaboration. Schoomaker wished this joint venture could lead to interests of other entities. I also sincerely hope that this endeavor will spread all over the nation to battle the opioid epidemic.

(Edited by Doc Luecke.)

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