Army combat Veteran fights the war on opioid addiction


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This article first appeared on the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center website

It’s been nearly 25 years since the infamous Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia occurred. The events of that conflict made a lasting impact, were reported all over the world and inspired the critically-acclaimed movie “Black Hawk Down”.

Norman Hooten

Dr. Norman Hooten served in the U.S. Army for more than 20 years and deployed as part of the Delta Force to support military missions all over the globe. He is pictured here (bottom right) with other members from one of his old military units. (Photo Courtesy of Norman Hooten)

Retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant and former Delta Force operator Norman Hooten, Pharm.D. fought in the October 3-4, 1993 battle experiencing first-hand the devastation and carnage.

“There were so many vivid memories from that day, but the one that stood out the most was the moment that [Black Hawk] helicopter took that hit and was going down,” said Hooten. “Prior to that moment, we were pretty much done with our mission but when that happened we realized it was going to be a long day.”

Today, Hooten is far-removed from his days of battling opposing forces across the globe and has taken on a new mission of tackling the opioid epidemic facing our nation’s Veterans. He is a clinical pharmacist who just finished his residency with the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center.  After rotations in several clinical areas at the medical center, Hooten discovered a passion for working with Veterans recovering from substance use disorder.

“I lost a couple of close friends that died of drug related overdoses and they were really good guys – special operations guys,” Hooten explained. “Losing my fellow soldiers to substance abuse was almost as bad as losing them in combat. All their talent and potential was lost and I wanted to do something about it.”

Dr. Donna Beehrle-Hobbs, director Postgraduate Year One Pharmacy Residency, couldn’t be prouder of Dr. Hooten’s accomplishments. “I have watched him grow throughout his residency and it’s been so inspiring to work alongside him at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center,” she said. “His heart is truly in the right place and our Veterans are in great hands with Dr. Hooten at their side.”

VA pharmacist Norman Hooten

Dr. Norman Hooten uses his experience as a combat Veteran to relate to other former service members. He cites his ability to relate to other Veterans experiences has been helpful when developing successful treatment plans. (Photo Credit: Joanne Deithorn)

Hooten’s wife, Bonnie who is also a pharmacist encouraged him to pursue the profession but his journey from U.S. Army Special Forces to VA pharmacist wasn’t an easy one.  He initially retired from the military in August 2001 and started pharmacy school that same month but was recalled to active duty after the September 11, 2001 attack. After a deployment to Afghanistan, eight years with the Federal Air Marshal Service and contracting work in Jordan he returned to pharmacy school in 2012.

Many sacrifices were made along the journey to completing his education but Hooten persevered because he was determined to make an impact.  “It’s never too late to make a difference and go back to learn and grow,” said Hooten. “You should give back until your last dying breath. I started [pharmacy] school at 52 and at 57 I’m finishing up my residency.”

Hooten completed his residency at West Palm Beach and started as a clinical pharmacist for the Orlando VA Medical Center on July 1. With his residency complete, he’s ready to put his experience to use.

“I can’t stand idle while Veterans suffer with addiction,” he said. “If I can help just one Veteran, or have just one call me later to tell me that I was able to help them get off opioids then that would tremendous.”


About the author: Kenita D. Gordon is a public affairs officer at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. CLYDE BETZ    

    I have suffered with PTSD/ Self Medication all of my Adult Life. Now 65 years old and I just got a clue too. Congrats

  2. Debra Lynn Connor    

    OUTSTANDING ROLE MODEL!! THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS!

  3. Debra Lynn Connor    

    OUTSTANDING! EXCELLENT ROLL MODEL FOR ALL!
    GOD BLESS YOU AND FAMILY ALWAYS!

    Thank you!
    Debra L Connor
    USAR RET SGT/Medic

  4. Larry d. Higgins    

    I’m a Vietnam vet who was first diagnosed with pancreatitis in 1987. Since then I have been taking some kind of pain medicine. Because of the opioid abuse the va. has cut back on my prescriptions,and that’s not fair to me. I never abused or misused. Now I have started going back to the local emergency room for relief. Thanks va.

  5. J Glen Bright    

    Great Article – Great Man! Thanks for his service and looking forward to his long career in assisting Vets. Blessings, Bright, US Army (retired)

  6. Rebecca Wright RN, EMT-P (ret)    

    “Army combat Veteran fights the war on opioid addiction”

    “Fascinating!” I thought. “What is he doing?!” “I wonder if it could help me with my own struggle with opioid addiction?”

    And this is what he is doing:
    “I can’t stand idle while Veterans suffer with addiction,” he said. “If I can help just one Veteran, or have just one call me later to tell me that I was able to help them get off opioids then that would tremendous.”

    He “can’t stand idle”. Embarrasing for Vantage Point, it’s editors, author: Kenita D. Gordon, and retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant and former Delta Force operator Norman Hooten. Since the article didn’t follow nor answer the thesis,I felt disappointed and that I wasted my time. Had the reader not been misdirected, the article could have been an inspiring personal story that Master Seargeant Hooten would be proud of.

    And now I’ve wasted more time feeling compelled to comment after being duped!

  7. Earlwin t Warren    

    Are cheap my PTSd medical marijuana I think all good are in should have the option over Pharmaceutical drug

  8. David Jones    

    Thanks Master Sergeant for your Service and the help you provide for the Veterans.

  9. Byron Glunz    

    That’s an inspiring story about Dr. Hooten and helping people who are substance abusers, but where is the commentary about helping people who actually need medication for chronic pain and the non-availability of analgesics from the VA? This comment may be unrelated, but where else to comment? VA will give ibuprofen, which is a joke, but it can’t be taken with blood thinners.

  10. R. Michael Maddox    

    This is all fine and dandy. BUT, pain medications are necessary in many instances. People have gone STUPID with all this anti opioid crap. Their are some of us who have illnesses and injuries that are not “Fixable”. When I see Cancer patients being taken off their medications, that have helped for years, and allowed to suffer I want to scream. So many of these people that talking of outlawing all Opioids have not a clue. Apparently never suffered from Chronic Intractable (uncurbable) pain. The overdose death numbers have been misrepresented. CDC has finally admitted that their numbers were including ALL DRUG OVERDOSES. Yet the public only hears “Opioid”. Less than 1% of overdose deaths are by pain patients that receive LEGAL prescriptions from their doctors. Their are way too many people trying to set policy that have NO CLUE what they are talking about. We are becoming a laughing stock of the world for allowing our citizens to suffer, unnecessarily. Until they can come up with a medication to replace opioids, they need to leave well enough alone. These medications have been used since the beginning of time. It all sounds good in election year. But it is wrong to allow a human to suffer the way they are today. Most of the ones leading the cry against pain medications, have other motives. From making money from “rehab centers” to making money from psych. drugs that they say helps. It is all nonsense. Everyone needs to step back and pay attention to what is happening to the Chronic Pain Patients in America. Thank you. And I hope more of you will do the research and not just listen to the propaganda being pushed by a few. Look up pain patient pages on Facebook to learn what is REALLY happening to your fellow Americans. Thank you

  11. Lee Smith    

    I stopped taking Tramadol after 16 years on them. On Jan.2018 I stopped cold turkey. I have been a mess since then and no one has helped me in the VA or elsewhere. My VA ‘psychiatrist’ sent me to VA group for drug abusers, but they were all hard cases, rude obnoxious people who I couldn’t relate too and they couldn’t relate to me. It was a horrible experience! Are there groups that you know of for normal people who got addicted to painkillers? My life is very bad and no one even seems interested in helping me. Please help me! Lee Smith USNAVY (personal contact information redacted)

    1. Concern Ed Veteran    

      Lee – Please see your Primary Care, Patient Rep, Medical Chief of Staff, VA Administrator, Congressman soonest until you get help! Don’t let anyone blow you off! Try to be calm while you explain the situation to them but don’t back down. The system is failing you. You deserve better!

  12. James Letts    

    I have been addicted to opiates. Since basic training back in 76 . When I was given opiates after tooth work. I love the effect so much it follows my entire life . I am now 61 n now just seeking help for this horrible addiction that had plauge my entire adult life

  13. Christopher R Baker    

    They (whoever “they” are) have made my doctor start cutting me back on my hydrocodone and now I hurt all the freaking time. I was doing quite well on 60 mg a day. Now, because some stupid people have over prescribed or bought from illicit sources the powers that be, are screwing over those of us who use it as prescribed and are in no danger of overdosing. We don’t break the law to get more. We were doing what we needed to do. Now, unless they come up with a viable substitute, tens of thousands of law abiding people will spend their days in pain. I could easily hate the people who abused it but I don’t. I feel sorry for them somewhat. The doctors though, who prescribed when they shouldn’t have, should be executed. The dealers on the streets should be executed. Those of us who are law abiding and NEED the pain killing effects of substances like hydrocodone should still be allowed to have it. A point here… I cannot take any NSAIDS and Acetaminophen is pretty useless by itself. What are you doctors going to do to ameliorate my pain? Constant pain puts stress on the body and mind and shortens a person’s life. YOU KNOW THAT! What are you going to do for me and those like me, in constant pain?

  14. Richard G Kensinger    

    I too am a former AF medic of the Vietnam Conflict, and as a retired clinical psychologist and psychology professor, I am an avid supporter of combat military personnel of all conflicts. I have 3 published article on Brain Blogger about combat trauma and its genesis in PTSD, SUD, and Compacted Grief. Sadly despite the priority of the VA to prevent suicide, the rate is rising.

    I admire and applaud Dr. Hooten and others involved in this pertinent effort!
    Rich

  15. William A. Drakes    

    I am an opiode addict who who has very successfully been treated for that and PTSD by Dr. Kharma Hudson at the Dallas VA Medical Center for over 6 years. For people with a big problem having to do with substance abuse, the VA clearly has the expertise, experience and the initiative to help. I think the VA should be given the lead in developing a comprehensive program for dealing aggressively with Americas very troubling opiode addiction. I wish all addicts had access to a physican as skilled, patient and understanding as Dr. Hudson.

  16. Doyle Burrows    

    It’s great to see someone fighting for opioid problems. They are all over the country and I feel like our surgery doctors are contributing to the problem. They are prescribing way too many opioid pills to post operative patients. As an example, I was written a script for primary pain narcotics, plus a secondary pill for therapy. Of the 1st 40, I took 9. The second bottle is still unopened! (30).

    Let’s get the overdosing doctor problem solved and maybe that will get a heck of a lot of drugs off the streets. Thanks for listening.

Comments are closed.