Doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Tomah, Wis., hand out so many narcotic painkillers that some veterans have taken to calling the place “Candy Land.”
They call the hospital’s chief of staff, psychiatrist Dr. David Houlihan, “the Candy Man.”
The number of opiate prescriptions at the Tomah VA more than quintupled from 2004, the year before Houlihan became chief of staff of the hospital, to 2012, according to data obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting.
During the same period, the number of oxycodone pills handed out skyrocketed from 50,000 to 712,000, even as the number of veterans seeking care at the hospital declined, the data show.
Current and former hospital staff members described patients who show up to appointments stoned on painkillers and muscle relaxants, doze off and drool during therapy sessions, and burn themselves with cigarettes. They said Houlihan himself had “doped up” or “zombified” their patients and that workers who raised questions have been punished.
In August, a 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran died of an overdose in the inpatient psychiatric ward.