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Opioid Crisis Effects on US Veterans

Summary of the Specialization Plan Purpose

The health care sphere is one of the essential elements of social work within communities, as well as on a national scale. In the United States of America, the issues related to the health of the citizens have always been prioritized. However, the recent increase in opioid epidemics rates imposes significant concerns for the authorities, policy-makers, and social workers, who must address the problem from a social, political, and research perspectives. Since the scope of the problem incorporates an array of impacted population groups, it is relevant to narrow the current research to the group, which seems to be the most affected by the opioid crisis; it is veterans (Minegishi & Frakt, 2018).

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This population is marked by the highest rate of chronic pain caused by combat experiences compared to any other population group (Hudson et al., 2017). Since military veterans are frequently prescribed opioid pain relief medications and ultimately become exposed to the threats of addiction and health impairments, it is crucial to find a tool capable of reducing the harmful effects of opioids in general.

The research climate for the study on the opioid crisis in the veteran population is favorable due to the high demand for new perspectives on how this omnipresent issue might be combated. Since the social work scholarly circles respond to the pending issues in the society, the increased attention of the policy-makers at state and federal levels provides numerous opportunities for researchers to investigate the possible interventions capable of reducing the adversities imposed by the opioid crisis in veterans. Moreover, the analysis of the literature shows that although there is an extensive amount of research on factors associated with opioid addiction and overdose, little is provided concerning the educational and preventative measures aimed at stopping the epidemics from within.

The current research aims at seeking answers to several research questions, which will address the gaps in the current literature. What opioid addiction and overdose risk factors might be used to prevent the crisis in veterans? What educational and promotional interventions could help veterans avoid complications associated with opioid intake? The majority of available research studies on the topic utilize cohort study designs, surveys, case studies, and qualitative research to address their research questions (Hudson et al., 2017; Schatman & Webster, 2015; Wilder et al., 2016). A qualitative study design is proposed for this research.

When seeking answers for the above-mentioned research questions, the study anticipates that such factors as prescribed opioid medication doses, chronic illnesses, and socio-economic status might be the factors indicating the highest risk population. It is vital to detect the individuals among veterans who are at the highest level of risk by means of understanding the risk factors and their competent addressing. Therefore, when scrutinizing the second research question, the researcher attempts to propose preventative and educational interventions that would specifically address the identified risk factors.

According to Moyo et al. (2019), veterans are vastly exposed to substance abuse, accidental opioid overdose, and deaths of opioids. Besides, military veterans are challenged when reintegrating civilian life and often suffer from an array of mental issues (Angel et al., 2018; Kertesz, 2017). Overall, the US veterans, as well as many other population groups, are in urgent need of relevant resolution of the identified problem. It is a prioritized benchmark of social work on all levels.

Therefore, under the circumstances of the increased attention of the authorities to the problem of opioid epidemics, it is vital to research its implications for the most impacted population, veterans, by identifying the main risk factors associated with opioid overdose and their application to the development of educational and preventative interventions. It is anticipated that the research will be a significant contribution to social work with veterans and will trigger necessary authoritative attention to this tentative problem.

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Problem Area

Statement of the Problem

An essential part of any research is the clear formulation of the problem under investigation. Thus, the problem area to be investigated is the rising national-level concerns related to the mortality and addiction rates among military veterans imposed by the opioid crisis in the country’s health care system. To validate the existence of a problem in the healthcare system addressing the opioid crisis among US veterans, it is appropriate to apply a framework introduced by Kingdon (1984). From the perspective of agenda-setting processes defined by Kingdon (1984), the introduction of any problem to the political agenda is comprised of many steps and contributions of various participants.

Some crucial health care issues that become addressed in the national political process pass the same pattern. They originate as specific conditions, acquire public reaction, and the recognition of the main shareholders and decision-makers. As it is indicated by Kingdon (1984), for a condition to become a nationally recognized problem, it must be depicted in the change of basic indicators, events, and feedback.

Thus, the indicators of the opioid crisis in veterans include the high numbers of addictive drug behaviors among the designated population imposed by prescribed opioid misuse. Moreover, statistically, veterans are one of the most significant populations that are prescribed opioids to relieve pain, since chronic pain is the most frequently observed health issue in this group (Hudson et al., 2017). Ultimately, there are 562,000 US veterans with opioid misuse who are continuously exposed to mental disorders, health impairments, and mortality (2018 National survey on drug use and health: Veterans, 2018). These indicators show the existence of the problem on a national scale.

The focusing event that has contributed to the formulation of the problem is the identification of the opioid crisis as an epidemic state by the scientific and health care communities. Since the number of cases of opioid misuse in various populations, including veterans, has spread uncontrollably, this event is in the focus of attention. Finally, the feedback from the public in the form of complaints and discontent has also made its contribution to the formulation of the problem.

As for the budget considerations, insufficient assets provided to the healthcare settings with an aim to ensure the provision of non-addictive pain relief medication cause an array of complications to the problem. Thus, specific numbers, prevailing population groups impacted by the issue (who are mostly military veterans in the US), and the effective solutions such as healthcare initiatives on substitutes of opioids or additional funding on the elimination of the adverse impact of the crisis must be closely considered by the main policy-makers. It will enable them to develop a nationally applicable policy that will extensively address the issue of opioid epidemics among veterans and other population groups.


Angel, C. M., Smith, B. P., Pinter, J. M., Young, B. B., Armstrong, N. J., Quinn, J. P., … Erwin, M. S. (2018). Team Red, White & Blue: A community-based model for harnessing positive social networks to enhance enrichment outcomes in military veterans reintegrating to civilian life. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 8(4), 554-564.

Hudson, T. J., Painter, J. T., Martin, B. C., Austen, M. A., Williams, J. S., Fortney, J. C., … Edlund, M. J. (2017). Pharmacoepidemiologic analyses of opioid use among OEF/OIF/OND veterans. Pain, 158(6), 1039-1045.

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Kertesz, S. G. (2017). Turning the tide or riptide? The changing opioid epidemic. Substance Abuse, 38(1), 1-6.

Kingdon, J. W. (1984). Agendas, alternatives, and public policies. Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co.

Minegishi, T., & Frakt, A. (2018). Reducing long-term opioid use in the veterans health administration. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 33, 781-782.

Moyo, P., Zhao, X., Thorpe, C. T., Thorpe, J. M., Sileanu, F. E., Cashy, J. P., …W. F>, Gellad. (2019). Patterns of opioid prescriptions received prior to unintentional prescription opioid overdose death among Veterans. Research in Social & Administrative Pharmacy, 15(8), 1007-1013.

2018 National survey on drug use and health: Veterans. (2018). Web.

Schatman, M. E., & Webster, L. R. (2015). The health insurance industry: Perpetuating the opioid crisis through policies of cost-containment and profitability. Journal of Pain Research, 8, 153-158.

Wilder, C. M., Miller, S. C., Tiffany, E., Winhusen, T., Winstanley, E. L., & Stein, M. D. (2016). Risk factors for opioid overdose and awareness of overdose risk among veterans prescribed chronic opioids for addiction or pain. Journal of Addictive Diseases, 35(1), 42-51.

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