Tricare Could Cover New Drug Substitution Therapy


For decades, service members have been prescribed painkillers to deal with various ailments and injuries. Unfortunately, with these drugs being so readily available, dependency sneaks up on the road to recovery. For those using Tricare there may now be a solution to this problem.

A proposed change by the Department of Defense could enable Tricare to cover the cost of drug substitution therapy, thereby helping those suffering from painkiller dependency.

Medical substitution therapy is often covered by most private insurers, but hasn’t been available to Tricare beneficiaries. The change would allow Tricare to support medical treatment that combines prescribing therapeutic, but dependency-causing, substances for a known addiction-causing drug with counseling.

Medical drugs such as Methadone and Suboxone are proven medications for treating opiate addicts, serving as substitutes for heroin and prescription painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin. Both drugs help to eliminate the physical symptoms of dependency, like nausea and tremors, as well as the cravings of narcotics withdrawal.

Under the current policy, Tricare covers Suboxone only for intense detoxification. The new rule would allow the military health activity to support it for long-term maintenance treatment.

The current period of the proposed change ends Feb. 27, with changes going into effect about 90 days after the final rule is published.

A 2010 Army report estimated that one in seven soldiers has received a prescription for an opiate.

11 thoughts on “Tricare Could Cover New Drug Substitution Therapy”

  1. All well and good. I just want the VA to make proven acupuncture treatment easily available. Every year I have to spend months jumping through hoops to get acupuncture approved for the next year.

    1. Agreed. The appointments I get for acupuncture at the VA is few and far in between so any improvement in my health regresses by the time I get followup treatment. BUT the VA is so quick to dispense painkillers. I have too many meds–vicodin, percocet, tranquilizer, tramadol,….I don’t want them. I want acupuncture and therapy.

    1. To Tex Newt:

      Yes, suboxne AND methadone are addictive. But, if you have developed dependency on, say, hydrocodone one can detox from the hydrocodone over maybe a week (physical withdrawal for opioids should work in 3 days) using the methadone or suboxne. Then get back on your opioid medication and you should be OK for a while. Then just repeat the cycle when dependency becomes an issue again, and it will. Thanx.

      PS Veterans should not have suffer when the proper combinations of care (understanding dependency and how to handle it) if you have chronic pain, as I do. Thanx again.

  2. They had me on 800MG Motrin for about a decade, then my stomach went bad, so I take Omeprazole for that. They substituted 5/500 Vicodin for the Navy Candy, next step is methadone, then morphine. Nice. When I went to the VA ortho guy, he didn’t even look at the MRI, just looked at me and told me I was to young for hip replacement. The 3 Cm wedge gap in the head of my femur isn’t enough, I need to be 65. Think I could get hooked in ten more years? I now have to advocate for medical MJ, I’ve seen it work wonders, and you don’t have to get “high” or smoke weed to benefit from the medications. Of course, the VA will deny all claims to its usefulness.

    Let’s face it, is this about pain that Vets suffer from, or is it about “addiction”? Or, is it really about cost cutting? I’ve been on Vicodin for several years now, never upped the dosage, it just helps me function in life. Am I now an “addict”? Or am I just expensive?

    And to think that a simple X-Ray in 1979 could have alleviated all this.

  3. Too bad my Primary care, Dr. Wojtas, Ft. Meyers, VA Clinic, Florida, never thought of my withdrawls from Morphine and Hydrocodone when i was refused refills over the Holidays. Im still in intense pain and with-drawls for over 2 weeks now. With no period of time mentioned for any pain relief or withdrawl treatment. After, heart surgerey last March, my “TENS” unit couldnt be used with the pace-maker. A pain consult without me, I couldnt take the 6hr round trip without severe pain for weeks, ordered changes. But my Doc didnt think of my pain and withdrawls when she cut off my pain meds, without ordering me any replacements. Happy New Year, and no meds in hand as we speak

  4. What is the point of substituting one addicting drug for another? in the first place, addiction is probably the wrong word. There is a difference between building a physical dependence upon a long-term pain-killer, and addiction, which is a mental/emotional craving as well as physical dependence. Long-term opiate (or opiate synthetics) is going to create some degree of dependence. People act like it is somehow a crime. There are conditons that are painful that are not going to be cured in our lifetimes, at least. Allowing people to suffer is worse than allowing them to develop a dependence on a drug they need anyway. So long as dosage is controlled the user isn’t lying or stealing to get more, what’s the problem? Until/unless a painkiller that works better than the opiate family is developed, use what works and live with the results.

  5. Addiction or expense – does it matter? Both issues need to be addressed. And as far as acupuncture, you go Dave! This is a viable treatment and worth the trouble to get it approved.

  6. for Lynn McMillen, dependency and addition are exactly the same thing. It is a matter of degree of dependency. If you only have to take 12 hydrocodone in 24 hrs, you are not an addict yet, you will be one if you let your pill-popping to 20 or 30 you probably should be de-toxed. I use detoxed specifically to say that VA meds should be aware of the problem and provide a medication plan that includes detoxification for all veterans who have to use an addictive pain-killer. If you have chronic pain and HAVE to take horrible pain-killers, you WILL develop increasing dependency.

    I have seen people (Venice, Ca) detoxing from prescribed medicines and I have seen people withdrawing from heroin and by FAR prescribed medication withdrawals are way worse then good old Vietnam H.

  7. I personally have been active duty and taking pain killers well over a year. Tramadol, Hydrocodone and Oxycodone. I use them as needed but can tell with the same dosage for over a year now. I know Im not getting the full benefit. Lets face it… most doctors and people are scared of opiates due to government propaganda and the way opiates were sold and used in everything from OTC cough remedies, baby sleeping aids and now the wide spread pain killers and herion addiction that plauges every city and every state in the US, Canada, Mexico and I’d say majority of everywhere else. Opiates have been around and used for their properties way before they where regulated and pushed on anyone for pain. I’ve seen the studies of the FDA’s double blind studies that last for only multiple weeks coming up with a safer and less addictive opiate. It’s all BS to me. Why do all of the Americans with addiction prefer pain killers to herion. Well its not because its less addictive, or that it safer. It’s the people’s understanding that we can spend more money and get cleaner drugs. Plus if its from a doctor its less Taboo, “Cleaner”, and if I can sit here, show proof that I have drugs legally… Then what’s the problem? Also my personal belief that its just a well organized drug scheme from the heads up. They can reap the benefits from selling this drugs at a alarming rate and also have the war on drugs to catch the people who are selling it to whoever because the people perscribed cant afford the living expenses without the extra pay that is collected to make up for their loses at the doctors. This is a very true statement for most rural and inner city families. Sorry for the rant but it pisses me off how we conduct the whole process of narcotics in the US. Here is nice little paragraph from the band 311.

    311-Off Beat Bare Ass
    Mandatory sentence for a crime with no victim
    When everyone knows jail terms should be picked in
    Order of the pain that they cause
    Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law
    Until you violate the rights of another
    Respect the space of your sister and your brother
    The war on drugs may be well intentioned
    But it falls fucking flat when you stop and mention
    The overcrowded prisons where a rapists gets paroled
    To make room for a dude who has sold
    A pound of weed to me that’s a crime
    Here’s to good people doin time y’all !!!

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