SFTT News: Week of May 13, 2016

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Found below are a few news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage our readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

New U.S. Commander in Afghanistan
After 18 months in command during a period of military and political conflict, General Campbell handed off on Wednesday to Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr. of the United States Army. The new commander, who leads a force of about 13,000, will oversee NATO’s reduced mission of training and assisting the Afghan forces at a time when the Taliban insurgency has spread wider than at any point since the group was removed from power in 2001.  Read more . . .

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DoD buys Faulty Drones that Failed Testing
U.S. Special Operations Command bought dozens of hand-launched drones that failed military tests and may not be able to meet mission requirements in the harsh environments they were designed for, according to a newly released report from the Defense Department’s inspector general.  Read more . . .

Donald Trump Adviser Signals Change to Veteran Health Benefits
Donald Trump says the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health-care system is badly broken, and this week his campaign released some guidelines that would steer changes he would implement if he wins the presidency.  While short on details, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee would likely push VA health care toward privatization and might move for it to become more of an insurance provider like Medicare rather than an integrated hospital system, said Sam Clovis, Mr. Trump’s chief policy adviser, in an interview.  Read more . . .

Veteran EMT Support Act Passes Congress
Today (May 12), the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1818, the Veterans EMT Support Act, by a vote of 415 to 1. The legislation assists military medic veterans to efficiently transition their military medical training into the civilian workforce and addresses the shortage of emergency medical technicians in states.  This has been a key legislative priority of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT), as well as other national and state EMS organizations. H.R. 1818 directs the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a demonstration program for states with a shortage of emergency medical technicians to develop a streamlined transition program for trained military medics to meet state EMT licensure requirements.   Read more . . .

A Brief History of Opioid Abuse:  Courtesy of CNN
The abuse of opioids, including prescription painkillers and drugs like heroin, is something the United States has struggled with since before the 1900s. But it’s a problem that keeps coming back.  Now, federal agencies are trying to tackle the problem in different ways. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain, part of an effort to push doctors to prescribe pain medications responsibly. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that immediate-release opioid painkillers such as oxycodone and fentanyl will now have to carry a “black box” warning about the risk of abuse, addiction, overdose and death.   Read more . . .


Memory Manipulation to Treat PTSD?
Imagine if memory could be tuned in such a way where good memories are enhanced for those suffering from dementia or bad memories are wiped away for individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder. A Stony Brook University research team has taken a step toward the possibility of tuning the strength of memory by manipulating one of the brain’s natural mechanisms for signaling involved in memory, a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Their findings are published in the journal Neuron.   Read more . . .

If you want to support our brave Veterans reclaim their lives, do consider a donation to SFTT.

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Gut Check for Veterans with PTSD

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The search to help Veterans and active duty military personnel cope with Post Traumatic Stress (“PTS” or “PTSD”) continues to attract much attention from within the scientific community and alternative medicine pundits.

It seems that almost weekly some promising new cure to treat Veterans with PTSD appears on mainstream media, with the caveat that “it will take years” to prove its efficacy.  Must our Veterans wait so long?

While many doubt the efficacy of holistic medicine and practices that date back centuries in the Far East, the Western medical profession now agrees that bacteria from our digestive system may offer potential benefits in combating stress.

Bacteria to treat Veterans with PTSD?

In an article published by Science.mic entitled “The Military Wants to Cure Soldiers of PTSD by Hacking their Gut Bacteria,” researchers found

. . .  a means to improve the smaller mice’s moods: by feeding them the same bacteria found in the poop of the bigger, calmer mice. Subsequent brain scans showed the smaller mice’s moods improved significantly.

Past research has shown similar results. One 2015 study found that probiotics in fermented food — such as sauerkraut and yogurt — change the bacterial environment in the gut, which in turn affects our anxiety levels.

Indeed, these scientific “revelations” are hardly new to those remotely familiar to Traditional Chinese Medicine.  In fact, the New York Times reported some time ago that:

It has long been known that much of our supply of neurochemicals — an estimated 50 percent of the dopamine, for example, and a vast majority of the serotonin — originate in the intestine, where these chemical signals regulate appetite, feelings of fullness and digestion.

For centuries, Traditional Chinese Medicine has been using a variety of techniques including acupuncture, reflexology and herbs to reduce stress and treat stress-related disorders.

While I have no idea how these “new”  scientific studies will pan out in the long run, it seems to me that stress-related injury is not new and that societies all over the world have been treating “stress” for centuries.

While I am not advocating that the Department of Veteran Affairs (“VA”) drop its reliance on prescription drugs to manage the symptoms of PTSD and embrace alternative medicine, it does seem disingenuous, if not foolish, to ignore the benefits of other treatment programs.

SFTT has long been supportive of several programs to treat Veterans with PTSD that have been shown to provide positive short and medium term benefits to Veterans.  In particular, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (“HBOT”) is regularly used by the Israel Defense Forces (“IDF”) to treat military personnel for PTSD.

Sadly, the VA claims that their own tests on the efficacy of HBOT are inconclusive.

Many more examples of the intransigence of the VA can be cited, but with Veteran suicides at 22 a day and with well over 20% of returning Veterans showing symptoms of PTSD or TBI, one must ask whether the leadership of the VA is doing what is necessary to support the men and women who have served our country so valiantly.

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SFTT News: Week of April 25, 2016

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Found below are a few news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage our readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

DEA approves Marijuana Study for Veterans with PTSD
Drug regulators said it would never happen, but now the DEA has approved the first ever marijuana study for veterans with PTSD.  It’s a groundbreaking decision and a major shift in policy for the DEA.  The Colorado Health Department is helping with the cost of the study. It’s paying more than $2 million in grant money.  Seventy-six veterans will be involved in the first round of testing next month.   Read more . . .

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States Step in to Help Traumatized Veterans
A staggering share of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been returning home with mental illnesses brought on by their time overseas. But as hundreds of thousands struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, many are going without the help they need, which is prompting several states to step in. State officials say they are trying to bridge what they see as gaps in services provided by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, whose medical centers have been plagued by mismanagement, often face lengthy backlogs and can be located far from rural communities.   Read more . . .

 Veteran helps Camp Hope in Houston
Camp Hope provides interim housing for veterans and their families suffering from combat-related post-traumatic stress. I’ve personally worked there as a Comcast technician, helping to set up computers in their facility, and I see what they do and how they impact the community for veterans who come out of the military with PTSD challenges. Every year we lose so many to PTSD, and how fortunate it is that we have a place like Camp Hope here in Houston to take them in, house them, feed them, and support them.   Read more . . .

Cyber Warfare

US Targets ISIS with “Cyber-Bombs”
The Islamic State has been deft in its use of the Internet as a communications tool. ISIS has long leveraged social media to spread propaganda and even coordinate targets for attacks, using an ever-shifting collection of social media accounts for recruitment and even to call for attacks on individuals ISIS leaders have designated as enemies. But the organization’s efforts to build a sophisticated internal “cyber army” to conduct information warfare against the US and other powers opposing it have thus far been fragmented and limited in their effectiveness—and more often than not they’ve been more propaganda than substance.  Read more . . .

Groups Sue Department of Veteran Affairs on Water Claims
Three groups have sued the Department of Veterans Affairs over the agency’s handling of claims about contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. The lawsuit says between 1953 and 1987 nearly one million Marines, sailors, civilian employees and family members unknowingly used contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.  Read more . . .

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U.S. Army’s First Female Infantry Officer
Capt. Kristen M. Griest, one of two women who graduated from the Army’s Ranger School last summer, became the first woman named as an infantry officer Monday.“Like any other officer wishing to branch-transfer, Capt. Griest applied for an exception to Army policy to transfer from military police to infantry,” Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning spokesman Bob Purtiman said. “Her transfer was approved by the Department of the Army, and she’s now an infantry officer.”The Army Times was first to report the move. The paper reported that Griest, a West Point graduate, is expected to graduate on Thursday with the distinctive blue infantry cord.  Read more . . .

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Treating PTSD: An Evolving Science

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War produces many unforeseen consequences.  Not all of these “consequences” are detected – let alone understood – at the time they occur, but the long term effect can be quite unsettling to society for many years after a “war” has ended.

While it has long been known that trauma occurring in combat  can create radical changes in a person’s behavior, it has only been in the last few years that behavioral scientists and those in the medical profession have actively been identifying and studying the effects of Post Traumatic Stress (commonly referred to as “PTSD” for combat veterans from our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Veterans with PTSD - War in Afghanistan

In fact, in an article published in the Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health, they report that:

Military personnel experiencing combat in Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering wounds that are much greater in number and variety than those endured by veterans of earlier wars. This circumstance is due, in part, to advances in medical science and technology. Soldiers, sailors and  marines who suffered such severe wounds in earlier wars simply died because they were beyond the reach of then contemporary medicine or technology.

In addition, in earlier wars, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome was not even given a name, let alone recognized as a valid form of war-related casualty. Now, PTSD is thoroughly documented and a whole array of treatments are available to veterans of the Iraqi and Afghan Wars. Friedman (2006) summarized PTSD symptoms as being typified by numbing, evasion, hyper-vigilance, and re-experiencing of disturbing incidents via flashbacks. Veterans and other non-combatant participants in war who have outlived traumatic experiences typically suffer from PTSD.    Read more . . .

Given their own particular situation, many reading this article may disagree with the premise it is only recently that PTSD is now recognized as a “valid form of war-related casualty.”  Nevertheless, the public at large has little knowledge of the terrible toll that PTSD and TBI have on our Veterans and their loved ones.

As I reported last week in a column entitled “What the Greeks Knew About PTSD,” I highlighted some of the current literature that casts light on the symptoms of PTSD and possible therapy programs.

If the general public “buys into the silver bullet” therapy afforded by self-serving soundbites, you can rest assured that our politicians and administrators of VA and DoD programs will most likely conclude that they have the problem well in hand.

Quite the contrary is true, considering the number of Veterans suffering from PTSD and TBI demanding access to new treatment methodologies.    Sadly, coverage for inexpensive treatments such as Hyperbaric Oxygen (“HBOT”) and “service dogs” are currently being denied Veterans because the VA has yet to prove their efficacy.

Fortunately, independent organizations have seized the initiative and are now actively providing alternative therapy programs to help Veterans and their loved ones cope with the terrible consequences of PTSD.

In fact, many of these self-help programs have been going on for years.  For instance, the Veteran Treatment Court provides Veterans facing jail-time the opportunity to recover their life by going “drug-free” for two years and gain a high school diploma.  Their mentors in these Court-sanctioned programs is often a Vietnam Vet who has faced similar demons from a war fought decades ago.

The camaraderie of military Veterans is, in my opinion, critical in building self-sustaining communities of trust as Veterans seek to reclaim their lives.

We are still a long way to being able to provide our brave Veterans and active duty personnel the support they deserve.  However, I sense that there is growing frustration by Veterans and the public at large that our political institutions – particularly the VA – lack the commitment to bring about meaningful change.

Frankly, if our politicians are willing to commit brave young men and women into harm’s way, the least we can expect from our elected leaders is the commitment that they will be properly cared for when they return home.  Other than sound-bites, this commitment is currently lacking.

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SFTT News: Week of Apr 11, 2016

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Found below are a few news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage our readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

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Military Families Moved Out of Turkey
The U.S. military has ordered military family members to evacuate southern Turkey, primarily from Incirlik Air Base, due to security concerns, the Pentagon said Tuesday.  Family members will also be evacuated from facilities in Izmir and Mugla, according to a Pentagon statement.  Read more . . .

Gen. Lori Robinson appointed First Woman Commander
President Barack Obama intends to nominate the first female combatant commander in the military’s history, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Friday. Carter announced that he had recommended Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson to be appointed to lead U.S. Northern Command while speaking at a breakfast hosted by Politico.   Read more . . .

It Could be Worse:  How About the Canadian VA
In case you lost all hope in the Department of Veterans Affairs in the United States, just know it could be much worse. Take Canada for example.  Despite the fact that people have not evolved to grow new limbs in place of lost ones, a legless, Canadian master corporal named Paul Franklin must provide adequate proof of his status to his country’s VA annually.  Read more . . .

How to Prevent Army’s Brain Drain
On November 18, 2015, Defense Secretary spoke at George Washington University and laid out a series of initiatives focused on talent management within the services. Talent management has developed into a major concern of the Army as junior officers are leaving the Army at an alarming rate. A 2012 Rand study found that only 44% of West Point commissioned officers and 51% of Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) commissioned officers stay past their required eight years of service. Historically, junior officer retention has never been high, but the numbers from the Rand study show retention has reached all-time lows.   Read more . . .

The Challenges of Ranger School
The United States Army Ranger School is one of the most challenging military schools in the world.  It is the Army’s premier combat leadership and small unit tactics course.  For the last 12 years, only 49% of those who have attempted the course have succeeded.  Each month over 400 students arrive at Fort Benning, Georgia for their chance to face the toughest physical, mental, and emotional challenge they will likely ever encounter.  There is a reason Vietnam veteran and former Department of Military Instruction Director at the U.S. Military Academy COL Robert “Tex” Turner famously said, “I woke up in a cold sweat, I had a nightmare that I was still in Ranger School. Thank God that I was in Vietnam. Compared to Ranger School, combat was easy.”    Read more . . .

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Navy Seal Commander’s Suicide:  What did we learn?
In looking into the suicide of a Navy SEAL team commander, Job W. Price, during a deployment in late 2012, Times reporters learned more about the stresses on elite Special Operations troops, the stigma that many have felt about seeking help for mental health issues and what the military is trying to do to change that. Christopher Drew, one of the reporters who worked on the story, discusses these issues.   Read more . . .

Please bring other issues to our attention.  SFTT is looking for better ways to support the brave men and women who serve in harm’s way.

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Drugs and Super Soldiers

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The Atlantic just published a lengthy article entitled “The Drugs That Built a Super Soldier” describing how Vietnam military personnel were provided drugs to enhance performance or mask pain and injury.    The author, Lukasz Kamienski, reports that:

The conflict was distinct in another way, too—over time, it came to be known as the first “pharmacological war,” so called because the level of consumption of psychoactive substances by military personnel was unprecedented in American history. The British philosopher Nick Land aptly described the Vietnam War as “a decisive point of intersection between pharmacology and the technology of violence.”

In 1971, a report by the House Select Committee on Crime revealed that from 1966 to 1969, the armed forces had used 225 million tablets of stimulants, mostly Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), an amphetamine derivative that is nearly twice as strong as the Benzedrine used in the Second World War. The annual consumption of Dexedrine per person was 21.1 pills in the navy, 17.5 in the air force, and 13.8 in the army.

Research has found that 3.2 percent of soldiers arriving in Vietnam were heavy amphetamine users; however, after one year of deployment, this rate rose to 5.2 percent. In short, the administration of stimulants by the military contributed to the spread of drug habits that sometimes had tragic consequences—because amphetamine, as many veterans claimed, increased aggression as well as alertness. Some remembered that when the effect of speed faded away, they were so irritated that they felt like shooting “children in the streets.”

military drugs

Sadly, drugs have long been in the arsenal of the military to keep warriors alert and focused on the mission at hand or, more recently, over-medicating warriors with prescription drugs to cope with the symptoms of PTSD.

Mind you, drugs alone are not enough for the military brass and its lobbyist buddies to maximize the performance of our warriors.   The U.S. Army is now experimenting with the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program.  This $125 million experimental program is designed to improve “Soldier performance and readiness. Build confidence to lead, courage to stand up for one’s beliefs and compassion to help others. Comprehensive Soldier Fitness is about maximizing one’s potential.”

Comprehensive Soldier FitnessWhile is seems sacrilegious to criticize our military leadership, there are simply far too many examples of Ill-advised programs and the promotion of sycophant officers who endorse shoddy equipment procurement practices, yet deny our brave fighting men and women the equipment and support they require to accomplish their mission and receive the medical treatment they deserve following deployment.

The Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) repeatedly takes to task the VA on how it treats Veterans.    Recently, the GAO cited that 63% of the cases of Veteran suicides were “inaccurately processed.”

One suspects that this situation –  and many other heart-wrenching reports from the GAO on the incompetence of the VA – would trigger outrage by the public and Congressional leaders.  If so, it is difficult to discern the noise of this outrage.  The media seems more preoccupied with “topical crises” largely of their own making.   Perhaps, “real outrage” doesn’t sell much advertisement to trigger an overhaul of the VA.

Fortunately, many concerned individuals and charitable organizations have stepped in to privately provide the support our Veterans deserve.   While this “private” support may not be as comprehensive as the services available at the VA, it does provide Veterans with caring and inclusive therapy.

SFTT remains hopeful that the VA will seize the opportunity to reform itself.  There are far too many well-intentioned employees within the VA to allow our Veterans to dangle perilously because of incompetent leadership.

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NFL Preempts Veterans with Brain Injuries

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One cannot be surprised to learn that the NFL leadership and some club owners played “foot-free” with the fact that brain-injuries suffered by NFL players may be far worse than suspected.

NFL and Concussions

A New York Times story entitled “N.F.L.’s Flawed Concussion Research and Ties to Tobacco Industry,” has concluded that:

For the last 13 years, the N.F.L. has stood by the research, which, the papers stated, was based on a full accounting of all concussions diagnosed by team physicians from 1996 through 2001. But confidential data obtained by The Times shows that more than 100 diagnosed concussions were omitted from the studies — including some severe injuries to stars like quarterbacks Steve Young and Troy Aikman. The committee then calculated the rates of concussions using the incomplete data, making them appear less frequent than they actually were.

Not surprisingly, Congress has now gotten involved to determine if the NFL manipulated the data to hide the unpleasant fact that repeated concussions causes permanent brain damage.    Nobody who has ever given this issues a serious thought could have concluded otherwise, but politicians of every ilk cannot resist seeing their names at the forefront of a Congressional investigation into the NFL.

Needless to say, the NFL has demanded that the New York Times retract its story on concussions.    Clearly, the gladiator money machine is more important to NFL owners, advertisers and broadcast TV than the lives of the mercenaries recruited to entertain us.

Thousands of Veterans with PTSD must be scratching their heads and wondering where are Congressional leaders have been while the DoD and VA report on the ravages of PTSD and TBI among Veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Why does the NFL have priority over Veterans suffering from terrible brain injuries?  Is the stage for pubic exposure greater for politicians with the NFL than our brave Veterans?  Sadly, we must conclude that it is so.

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As long as our politicians are investigating the NFL, why not take the opportunity to make public the lengthy sensor studies conducted by the U.S. Army on brain injuries?   This sensor-data information collected for well over 5 years would certainly be useful to the medical profession in understanding what happens to the brain during concussive events.  It may also help developing a better helmet to protect our brave warriors.

Who knows, the leadership of the NFL may actually learn something about brain trauma.

With hundreds of thousand of Veterans suffering from brain trauma, isn’t it about time our political and military leadership quit burying their heads in the sands and deflect public scrutiny by investigating the NFL, which has Congressional immunity from anti-trust regulation?  What a strange but convenient retreat for our feckless political leadership.

If the NFL owners had any sense, they would embrace the battle against brain trauma and work with the military to help both its gladiators and the brave men and women suffering from PTSD. Indeed, this public relations initiative could help deflect “public” outrage and provide the medical profession and others with the resources and impetus to deal with the silent wounds of war.

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SFTT Highlights: Week of March 27, 2016

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Found below are a few news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage our readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

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Should Women Register for the Draft?
Two of the U.S. military service chiefs believe women should now be required to register for the draft after the Defense Department opened up all combat jobs to women.   Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley agreed that the current policy, which requires only males register for the Selective Service System, should be changed after restrictions that barred women from trying out for combat jobs were lifted last year.   Read more . . .

Mindfulness Training for Veterans with PTSD
Like an endlessly repeating video loop, horrible memories plague people with post-traumatic stress disorder. But a new study in veterans shows the promise of mindfulness training for enhancing the ability to manage those thoughts if they come up, and not get ‘stuck’. It also shows the veterans’ brains changed in ways that may help them find their own off switch for that endless loop.   Read more . . .

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Reforming the VA:  What do you think?
As the congressionally mandated Commission on Care moves closer to issuing its recommendations for VA reform, due in June, DAV has launched a nationwide campaign to set the record straight about some of the bad proposals that have emerged for changing veterans health care.
Specifically, some politicians, political and veterans groups have supported five changes to the VA health care system that may look good on the surface but could actually harm veterans in the long term: limiting the VA’s full-service health system to only a few “Centers of Excellence” focusing on things like post-traumatic stress disorder, burns and amputations; restricting the VA to treating only combat or service-related injuries; turning the VA health care system into merely an insurance company; letting the money follow the veteran using health care cards or vouchers; and privatizing the VA health care system.  Read more . . .

Home Schooling for Military Dependents?
Military families in the US frequently have to contend with relocating from time to time because of deployments. One of the most pressing concerns of frequently moving around is the constant disturbance in children’s educations. In recent years, military families are turning to home schooling for its schedule flexibility. However, there may be more to it than just convenience that parents need to be prepared for.  Read more . . .

36 Questions Which Lead Leaders
Leadership is not about having the right answers, it is the ability to ask the correct questions. It is a compilation of lived and learned experiences, the experiential education which bounds your way of thinking and does not define a rulebook.  Read more . . .

West Point and American Exceptionalism
There was a lot of fuss a few years ago when President Obama said he believed in American exceptionalism, just as he was sure “the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” But for all the fuss, the president’s remarks were symptomatic of a broader dissonance in our society about America’s role in the world.
Consider American presidential politics today. On the right, we see an impulse among some candidates to close our doors and leave the world to fend for itself. On the left, we see an appeal by some to utopian notions of what America is or should be that will end where all utopian notions end. This has happened before. It is what happens when faith in America and its mission in the world begins to wane.   Read more . . .

Chime in if you have a subject you would like to appear on SFTT’s news summary!

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Veterans Turn to Pot to Treat PTSD

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According to various press releases, Veterans are turning to pot or marijuana or cannabis to self-medicate against the symptoms of PTSD.   According to Ben Finley of the Associated Press and published recently on ABC:

While the research has been contradictory and limited, some former members of the military say pot helps them manage their anxiety, insomnia and nightmares. Prescription drugs such as Klonopin and Zoloft weren’t effective or left them feeling like zombies, some say.

Indeed, the use of cannabis by Veterans has increased despite the fact that it “remains illegal in most states and is unapproved by the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) because major studies have yet to show it is effective against PTSD.”

cannabis to treat ptsd

Image Source: https://cannabisincanada.ca/

Indeed, SFTT has been reporting for months that the VA seems to have lost its way in providing meaningful therapy for Veterans with PTSD.   The cocktail of prescription drugs continues to be the standard treatment recommended by the VA in treating PTSD, despite overwhelming evidence that Veterans mistrust these prescription drugs.   Furthermore, even the FDA and DoD believe that these prescription drugs are toxic.

Is Cannabis to Treat PTSD Effective?

There are many conflicting reports on whether or not “pot” is effective in treating the symptoms of PTSD.  Anecdotal evidence, as argued in the video below, suggests that cannabis or medicianl marijuana allows Veterans a few moments of peace or the ability to cope with their PTSD symptoms better than the psychotic drugs often prescribed by the VA.  Perhaps, alcohol or other recreational or “hard” drugs may provide the same benefits in treating they symptoms of PTSD as pot.

Treating the symptoms of PTSD and providing long-term solutions to help Veterans reclaim their lives are two very different goals.  Sure, any number of forms of self-medication or prescription drugs can mask the symptoms of PTSD temporarily, but this chemically-induced temporary “release from pain” hardly allows the Veteran – or any other person – to recover from a traumatic event.

In the opinion of SFTT, meaningful solutions are needed to allow Veterans suffering from the invisible wounds of war to reclaim their lives without the dependency of drugs or other prescription pharmaceuticals.  In fact, our dependency on drugs has become a national epidemic.

Earlier this week the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) issued guidelines to curb the use of prescription drugs.    Why?   As Lloyd Sederer of US News and World Report suggests:

The CDC guidelines are a needed and valuable public health step towards changing the deadly opioid epidemic in this country. We can prevent addiction for many, reduce overdoses and death for tens of thousands each year, improve functioning in countless people and introduce means other than pills to manage the inescapable pains of living.

Indeed, whether it is marijuana or prescribed opioids, as individuals and as a society, we need to ask whether it is better to seek solutions to materially improve the quality of our life or are we simply prepared to continue to live a life in a haze of smoke that simply masks the symptoms of the pains we have acquired through life’s journey.  This is the question that each Veteran must ask themselves.   There is no easy answer.

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Military News Highlights – Week of March 20, 2016

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Found below are several news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage our readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

Better than a War on Drugs
Pendulums are made to swing from one side to the other. So it is for the prescribing pendulum for narcotic analgesics in the U.S. today. For decades, until the 1990s, doctors were closed fisted about prescribing pain medications, with little basis for that approach other than an American tendency to puritanical attitudes towards drugs. The result was that far too many people, including those with severe, intractable pain, suffered needlessly.   Read more . . .

Prescription Drugs Targeted by PTSD

Is the Glock Pistol the Next Military Sidearm?
The U.S. Army‘s chief of staff is searching for alternatives to the multi-year Modular Handgun System effort, to include piggy-backing on Army Special Operations Command’s current pistol contract.  Gen. Mark Milley has used recent public appearances to criticize federal acquisition guidelines that all services must follow when choosing and purchasing weapons and equipment.  Read more . . .

The Military is from Mars, Civilians are from Venus
We’ve attended many meetings where it felt like the military personnel were from Mars and the civilians were from Venus: part of the same solar system, but from planets with vastly different landscapes and languages. And we knew many of our friends and colleagues who had also shared this far-too-common experience.   Read more . .  .

LZ Grace:  A Place to Heal
Lynnette Bukowski discusses LZ Grace Warriors Retreat.  Lynnette, and many volunteers, have transformed a 38 acre farm in Virginia Beach into a place for members of the special operations community and first responders to decompress and recharge. Lynnette shares the story of her husband, a Navy SEAL, and discusses some of the unique challenges the she faces in supporting who are accustomed to serving, and often suffering, in silence.   Read more . . .


VA Programs Caregivers May Not Know About
Roughly 5.5 million people serve as caregivers for veteran family members. The Department of Veterans Affairs has a lesser known benefit for these family members. Known as Caregiver Support Services, these benefits aim to help family members who are tasked with the primary care of a disabled veteran. The services available include access to a caregiver support line, support coordinator, peer support for caregivers, adult day health care centers, and home care, among other things.  Read more . . .

A War Correspondent’s Trouble with PTSD
The war was changing me, hardening me. I felt flashes of pure rage when someone ran into me on the basketball court or cut me off on the road. I chose tables at restaurants that were as far from the front doors and windows as possible, in case a bomb went off outside. I would wake up whenever there was a sound in my bedroom and then be unable to fall back asleep. In some of my dreams, loved ones died. In some, I did. I had full-blown PTSD.   Read more . . .

Join SFTT in helping get our Veterans the support they deserve.

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