Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Co-sponsors Bill to Combat Vets Suicides

Dec 11, 2017
Press Release
Bill Probes Link Between Opioids and Suicide

Veterans Twice as Likely to Die from Opioids as Civilians

WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan announced today that he has co-sponsored legislation to study the link between prescription painkillers and an alarmingly high rate of suicides among veterans. 

Veterans are twice as likely as civilians to die from overdoses of opioid painkillers. The Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act would require the Veterans Affairs Department to review the deaths of all veterans treated by the VA who died by suicide or from a drug overdose in the last five years. 

“The high rates of suicide and drug overdose deaths in the veteran community are unacceptable,” Buchanan said. “This legislation is critical to learning if prescription drugs, specifically opioid painkillers, are a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths among veterans.”

The bill, introduced by Rep. Mike Coffman, R-CO, specifically calls for a listing of “any medications that carried a black box warning, were prescribed for off-label use, were psychotropic, or carried warnings that include suicidal ideation.” The new information will be used to better treat veterans suffering from mental and physical injuries sustained as a result of their service. 

Shockingly, 20 veterans commit suicide every day according to the VA, accounting for 18 percent of all U.S. suicides. Florida has the third-highest number of veterans in the country, with 1.5 million.

Buchanan has been an active leader in confronting the opioid crisis in Florida. His district is the epicenter of Florida’s drug problems and he successfully fought for federal anti-drug funds that were recently distributed to the Suncoast region. In response to Buchanan’s inquiries, the VA released information on missing or stolen drugs at five Florida facilities in April.

Buchanan represents more than 88,000 veterans in Southwest Florida. He served six years in the Michigan Air National Guard and four years on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.