Senator to VA: End mindless narcotics prescriptions now

In the days leading to his death, former Marine Cpl. Jason Simcakoski sent a text to his dad from the inpatient psychiatric ward at the Tomah, Wisconsin, Veterans Affairs hospital.

"I slept horrible last night," Simcakoski wrote Aug. 27, 2014. "I tossed and turned sweating … then I just stayed up. I couldn't take it. I'm worse now than before I came in."

Simcakoski had checked himself into the hospital for chronic drug misuse, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. He was taking 14 medications, including antipsychotics, muscle relaxers, antidepressants and tramadol — a powerful opioid painkiller prescribed to him by Tomah doctors.

In the psych ward, however, physicians added another drug, suboxone, to the mix. The medication is used to treat opioid addiction but is itself a combination of narcotics that can cause respiratory distress.

On Aug. 30, Simcakoski awoke complaining of a headache. He was given an analgesic to...

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