Amid opioid crisis, VA hospital moves from medication to meditation

RICHMOND, Va. – In an effort to combat opioid addiction, the Veterans Integrated Pain Center at McGuire Veterans Medical Center has been moving from medication to meditation.

Over a stretch of four years the veteran’s hospital has looked for alternatives, especially with the growing public health issue.

“I remember times before I started this, I would to be in pain so bad, I wanted to cut my own knees off because of the pain,” said Army Veteran Wesley Boon.

When Boon came home from Iraq in 2005, he was struggling, physically and mentally.

“You don’t want to do anything, just lay around and pop pills, it’s like being in a dark place,” Boon explained.

Determined to get off pain killers, Boon turned to the program, welcoming the alternative methods.

Acupuncture

“I do tai chi, therapy, quiet therapy, and all of it is fitting and working together,” said Boon.

Veteran Eugene Bennett told CBS 6, he had been suffering from chronic pain since the 1970s, but acupuncture changed his life.

“It’s transformative, I won’t take opioids because I’ve seen what can happen with those,” Bennett expressed.

From acupuncture to a technique called bio feedback, McGuire is in its fourth year of a program that offers vets an alternative to pain killers by focusing on breathing techniques and stress management.

“Once they are able to do that, they actually change their nervous system, change their brain, which helps them manage pain and stress much better,” explained physical therapist Elmer Leigh.

Doctor Tim Hudson, Medical Director of the Veteran Integrative Pain Center, said one of the keys to the success of the program has been teaching veterans to address the stress.

“There are studies finding the mechanism in which a stress response is actually possibly connected to chronic pain in general, so those that have a lot of stress, have chronic pain, and vice versa,” Hudson said.

And veterans who have experienced the alternative medicine techniques, swear by them.

“I drive two hours to get here, that’s how important it is for me, and that’s how successful it’s been for me,” expressed Bennett.

“I didn’t believe this would happen, and now I’m sitting on TV talking about it, but for my veterans, I really would like them to give this a try,” Boon said with a smile.