U.S. War Veteran Addicted to Opiates Due to Lack of Treatment Options

By Bryan Le 02/26/14

The Department of Veteran's Affairs gave Justin Minyard prescription painkillers instead of discussing options with him.

The Minyard family. Photo via

Justin Minyard, a 34 year old Army veteran, suffered back pain from 9/11 relief efforts at the Pentagon and falling out of a chopper in Afghanistan. But instead of exploring alternatives, doctors at the Department of Veteran's Affairs prescribed him opiate painkillers for his chronic back pain and set him on the path to addiction.

Minyard vividly remembers the day when his three year old daughter brought him a Christmas present as he lay on the couch. "My eyes rolled to the back of my head. You could see only the whites of my eyes," Minyard recalled. "I was just not responding."

During that point in his life, he says there was only one question on his mind: "When is the next pill?"

When he was deployed to Iraq, he injected anti-inflammatory drugs given to him by military doctors. Upon arriving home, the Department of Veteran's affairs put him right back on the pills. "There were better options to treat my pain, and those weren't presented to me first," he said. "The priority was treating me the fastest, seemingly least expensive way, and it was the most detrimental."

Veteran Affairs' records show that other options for treating pain are limited. They only employed 115 pain specialists in the entire United States, or one specialist per 50,000 veterans.

While Minyard has been able to get a spinal cord stimulator for his pain and has stayed opiate-free for two years, he fears for vets who are still on painkillers. In 2012, the Center for Investigative Reporting discovered that Veteran's Affairs doctors wrote more than 6.5 million prescriptions for hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, and morphine.

"That's a staggering number to me," Minyard said. "It's a pretty big pool of people that are being affected."

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter