VA aims to treat addiction with alternative therapies

Better Health & Wellness

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — When our nation’s heroes return from serving, they deal with pain many of us will never understand.

Dr. Alisha Coulson, a psychiatrist at the Robert J. Dole VA Center, says the Department of Veterans Affairs has programs to help people battle addiction, including opioid addiction.

“Opioid addiction is very prevalent, and it’s been a problem for the last thirty years, since the 1990s,” she said. “In the last ten years, its become very widely recognized that they have a lot of side effects, respiratory depression and coma and death, and also severe addiction. We are trying to help them in any way possible. We’ve got medication assistive therapy, residential treatment programs, intensive outpatient programs, group therapies, individual therapies, and we are getting ready to open a residential treatment program, here in Wichita.”

Nearly a decade ago, the VA launched the Whole Health Program.

“It encompasses diet, exercise, unconventional treatment like yoga,” Coulson said. “We have our clinic where we can do medication assistance treatments, if necessary maybe an inpatient medical detoxification process, so many, many options to get treatment there at the VA.”

The VA offers a lot of classes, sessions and resources online, so veterans never have to leave their homes.

“We have been doing televideo visits, telemed visits, dialing into patients’ homes,” Coulson said. “We even have a limited number of iPads we can give to veterans, so we can do visits. Also, we have lots of VA apps, that you can download on your phone, things for cognitive behavioral therapy, insomnia, many other substance disorder resources. There are a lot of electronic things the VA has been pioneering for a long time.”

She acknowledges this it is not an easy fight and says the community can help.

“Just be there for them,” Coulson said. “You know these prescriptions have been prescribed by a doctor, so people are taking them, and they don’t realize how harmful they can be. It’s not going to be easy through the withdrawals no matter how we try to help it. We have Narcotics Anonymous, we have our homeless shelter if that is needed, just being there for them and meeting them where they are at and expect relapse.”

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