Why Veterans with PTSD are Seeking Alternative Therapy

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It is becoming increasingly clear that the Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) is no longer able to provide the care or therapy that Veterans with PTSD demand.  Increasingly, Veterans are seeking alternative therapy outside the VA.

Department of Veterans Affairs

According to New England Public Radio, a large percentage of Veterans seek alternative therapies for PTSD despite explicit warnings by the VA that many of these therapies are “untested.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates up to 30 percent of former service members — from the Vietnam war to Iraq and Afghanistan — have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They don’t all seek treatment, but among those who do, the VA says 20 to 40 percent don’t get better with the standard regimen of therapy, medication, or both. Increasingly veterans are seeking out alternative mental health care — and much of it untested.

Implicitly, the VA is telling Veterans that seek alternative therapies to treat PTSD that they they do so at their own risk.  

In fact, the VA is arguing that treatments not endorsed by the VA are probably a hoax.    This is the same FEAR SYNDROME used by the Roman Catholic Church during the Medieval ages to maintain discipline among parishioners.

As I have suggested earlier, the VA is broken and its $180 billion annual budget is clearly not addressing the needs of its constituents.

Ask yourself these simple questions:

  1. If prescribed VA therapies were effective, why would Veterans need to seek alternative forms of treatment?
  2. If prescribed VA therapies are “tested,” why don’t these therapies seem to be effective?
  3. Is treating the symptoms of PTSD (for instance, pain and depression) with “tested” prescription drugs the same as treating the core problem?

Sadly, the VA has become more of a gate-keeper of self-serving in-house solutions than a caregiver to the many brave men and women who have served our country so valiantly.

Spokespersons for the VA like Dr. Xavier Cifu ridicule other forms of therapy while vigorously defending their own “tested” but seriously flawed version of the truth.

As an outside observer, one can only shake one’s head when therapies such as Hyperbaric Oxygen and acupuncture are summarily dismissed by the VA despite decades of use in many parts of the world, including our own.

I guess those in Congress will argue that the VA is simply too big to fail.   Nevertheless, the VA fails many of its constituents on a daily basis.   For instance, Brandon Ketchum, a former Marine and Army National Guardsman who served 3 tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, committed suicide recently after he was turned away by the VA in Iowa City.

How much longer do we need to see promised reforms within the VA?   Sadly, many Veterans are expressing their despair by turning away from “tested” VA prescriptions to embrace other forms of therapy.  Their message seems loud and clear to anyone listening.

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Congress Passes Drug Abuse Bill

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With broad bipartisan support, the Senate passed a compromise legislative bill aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse.

While this comes as relief to many, one must simply scratch their head and wonder why it has taken so long to curb prescription drug abuse.  This horrible addiction problem didn’t emerge yesterday.

Could it have anything to do with lobbyists?

Drug Abuse

Not surprisingly, one political party blamed the other for a lack of action on a bill to curb prescription drug abuse:

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement Wednesday night that President Obama will sign the bill even though it “falls far short.”

“Every day that Republicans stand in the way of action to fund opioid treatment means more missed opportunities to save lives: 78 Americans die every day from opioid overdose,” Earnest said.

The spokesman said Mr. Obama “won’t stop fighting to secure the resources this public health crisis demands. Congressional Republicans have not done their jobs until they provide the funding for treatment that communities need to combat this epidemic.”

Taking money from pharmaceutical lobbyists continues to enjoy wide bipartisan support, so to blame one party or the other for Congressional inaction is simply outrageous hypocrisy.

You need to look no further than the Department of Veteran Affairs, (the “VA”) to see the widespread abuse of using prescription drugs in treating PTSD and other ailments.   Masking pain has been Standard Operation Procedure (“SOP”) at the VA for many years rather than providing curative treatments.

Will more government funding in addition to their $180 billion a year budget help the VA do the right thing?  I think not. 

Veterans have long been aware of the dangerous side-effects of the drugs commonly prescribed by the VA.  One military Drug Abuse specialist informed me that some Veterans would often sell Purdue Pharma’s wildly successful OxyContin on the black market to supplement their income or – in many cases – to simply make ends meet.

Purdue Pharma:  A Description of Hell?

In a recent investigation into Purdue Pharma,  Los Angeles Times authors Harriet Ryan, Lisa Girion and Scott Glover suggest that the company’s shameless promotion of “OxyContin’s 12 Hour Problem” is little more than a “description of hell.”

After reviewing thousands of confidential internal documents, the LA Times reporters concluded that:

√ Purdue has known about the problem for decades. Even before OxyContin went on the market, clinical trials showed many patients weren’t getting 12 hours of relief. Since the drug’s debut in 1996, the company has been confronted with additional evidence, including complaints from doctors, reports from its own sales reps and independent research.

√ The company has held fast to the claim of 12-hour relief, in part to protect its revenue. OxyContin’s  market dominance and its high price — up to hundreds of dollars per bottle — hinge on its 12-hour duration. Without that, it offers little advantage over less expensive painkillers.

√ When many doctors began prescribing OxyContin at shorter intervals in the late 1990s, Purdue executives mobilized hundreds of sales reps to “refocus” physicians on 12-hour dosing. Anything shorter “needs to be nipped in the bud. NOW!!” one manager wrote to her staff.

√ Purdue tells doctors to prescribe stronger doses, not more frequent ones, when patients complain that OxyContin doesn’t last 12 hours. That approach creates risks of its own. Research shows that the more potent the dose of an opioid such as OxyContin, the greater the possibility of overdose and death.

More than half of long-term OxyContin users are on doses that public health officials consider dangerously high, according to an analysis of nationwide prescription data conducted for The Times.

Needless to say, a spokesperson for Purdue Pharma vigorously disputes the allegations in the LA Times investigation, but others suggest that  . . .

. . . more Americans die from opioid overdose than from car accidents. And this (sic LA Times) article gives only a partial tally of Purdue Pharma’s predatory conduct. The drugmaker targeted overly-busy, not very well trained general practitioners in communities which were likely to have high incidence of pain (think communities with a lot of jobs that involved manual labor). In other words, it’s no accident that OxyContin has become a plague in rural America.

Sadly, this bipartisan Congressional bill comes far too late for many Veterans and others who have been deceived by the predatory practices of Big Pharma and their enablers in the FDA and VA.  Is it asking too much for those in a position “to know” the effects of potentially lethal drugs to take action far sooner to protect the safety of our brave warriors and our citizens?

While some Senators are urging an investigation into Purdue Pharma’s predatory practices, it is unlikely that much will come of it.   Big money trumps ethics and common sense.

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PTSD: More Drugs on the Way?

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In yet another example of how the Department of Veteran Affairs (“VA”) and DoD try to reinvent the wheel in search of a miracle drug to treat PTSD, Fox News reports that “TNX-102 SL, which contains the same chemical property as Flexeril” may soon be used in treating Veterans with PTSD:

An already-approved muscle relaxant may offer relief for U.S. military veterans and first responders suffering from combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Phase 2 trials of the drug, TNX-102 SL, which contains the same chemical property as Flexeril, identified a dose and administration method that statistically improved participants’ PTSD symptoms among several mental health indices.

The findings were announced this month at the American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology Annual Meeting (ASCP), and could eventually lead doctors to unroll the first PTSD drug in more than a decade, said Dr. Harry Croft, Chief of CNS Studies at Clinical Trials of Texas. Croft, who has also headed the investigation of 60 similar clinical trials over the last 25 years, said current PTSD treatments either don’t address every individual’s range of PTSD symptoms, pose unwanted side effects, or have poor adherence rates. Thus, scientists have continued searching for new PTSD treatments.

According to the article, “no new PTSD drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since Paxil in 2001, and before that, Zoloft in 1999.”

the VA and drugs

While the VA has been dismissive of other proven old-fashioned therapy programs such as Hyperbaric Oxygen (“HBOT”), it appears that the VA has an unlimited research budget for new experimental drugs.  The pharmaceutical companies must be thrilled.

For many, especially Veterans seeking to reclaim their lives, it is difficult to fathom the “logic” of the folks at the VA, but it is hard to argue with a program administrator who places his or her interest ahead of the Veterans they should be serving.  It is difficult – read impossible – to have a discussion with someone who has all the answers.  Particularly so, if they are the wrong answers.

At a time when Congress is trying to determine whether the monolithic VA is the best way to provide help to Veterans,  it would appear that VA bureaucrats will continue to determine what drugs or therapy works best for Veterans.

In effect, Veterans – particularly those suffering from PTSD and/or TBI – will be denied access to alternative therapies in the private sector because the VA gatekeepers “know best.”

How many more Veteran suicides and disrupted lives do we need to say that this may not be the right approach?

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Meet Dr. David Cifu: VA Gatekeeper for PTSD & TBI

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A reader of the SFTT Blog suggested that we “take a look” at Dr. David Cifu, Senior TBI Specialist in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (“VA”) Veterans Health Administration. Found below is a short video clip of Dr. Cifu testifying at a U.S. Congressional Hearing on concussions in March, 2016.

For Veterans living with the effects of PTSD and/or TBI, I would find his testimony quite disturbing.

While it is unwise to draw conclusions from an edited video clip without the benefit of a full transcript of the proceedings, it is evident that Dr. Cifu has clear and strong convictions on how to deal with concussions. Furthermore, it was clear from the proceedings, that not every expert at the Hearing shared Dr. Cifu’s opinion on how to treat concussions.

A biographic extract from Virginia Commonwealth University states the following about Dr. Cifu:

In his 20 years as an academic physiatrist, he has been funded on more than 30 research grants and is the principal or co-principal investigator on eight current grants. He has delivered more than 425 regional, national and international lectures, published more than 165 articles and 65 abstracts and co-authored 20 books and book chapters. He has recently co-authored the patient and family focused self-help book, “Overcoming Post-Deployment Syndrome: A Six-Step Mission to Health.”

Now, I do not claim to be anything close to being an “expert” in analyzing  brain injury, but it strikes me that Dr. Cifu’s strong convictions on how to treat PTSD and TBI do not reflect the latest findings in brain-related trauma that SFTT reported last week based on new research by Dr. Perl.

In fact, with Dr. Cifu admitting to experiencing 6 concussions might – in itself – be considered a disqualifying event to hold such an important role within the VA.

While I have no reason to doubt Dr. Cifu’s integrity or sincerity, I have seen little evidence that Dr. David Cifu’s opinions on treating traumatic brain injury and PTSD have provided significant long-term benefits to Veterans to help them reclaim their lives.   In fact, many of the substance abuse problems affecting Veterans can be directly attributed to the VA for prescribing opioids and other pain-killers.

While it is all good and well to hold strong opinions, if those beliefs are wrong or even incomplete, many Veterans living daily with PTSD and TBI are at risk.  Does this make sense?

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Hyperbaric Oxygen: What the VA Doesn’t Want You To Know

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The gatekeepers at the Department of Veteran Affairs (the “VA”) remain intransigent in providing urgently need care to Veterans suffering from PTSD and/or TBI. Standard Operating Procedure (“SOP”) at the VA is to argue that FDA-approved clinical studies are needed to sanction treatment methods – regardless if these treatment alternatives have been used with success in many other countries for decades and, in some cases, hundreds of years.  

hyperbaric oxygen and the VA

Instead, the VA serves our Veterans a cocktail of potentially lethal prescription drugs that do carry the FDA’s “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.”   How is this possible when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) reports  an epidemic in addiction to prescription drugs?

Unfortunately, the VA’s SOP in prescribing these opioids to Veterans with PTSD and TBI hasn’t changed in many years.   Why?  Could it be that the benefits to Big Pharma outweigh the benefits of providing our Veterans with the treatment they merit?   I am most hesitant to ask this question, but I can think of no other explanation.

For instance, treating head injuries with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (“HBOT”) has been around for decades.  It is the standard procedure provided to wounded soldiers and civilians with head injuries by the Israeli medical profession for decades.

This short video below is in Hebrew with English subtitles, but it provides a very compelling argument why our Veterans should have access NOW to HBOT while the bureaucrats and FDA twiddle their thumbs and continue to ingratiate themselves with Big Pharma lobbyists.

Gordon Brown  of Team Veteran argues that  “We need this type treatment in our VA and military hospitals instead of the DRUG therapy they are now using. Most TBI cases have been misdiagnosed as PTSD and drug treatment cause further complications for our veterans.”   Gordon’s views reflect my own and those of hundreds if not thousands of Veterans.

In fact, some hospitals in the private sector are taking radical steps to curtail the use of opioids in treating pain.  In an recent New York Times article, St. Joe’s hospital is implementing wide-ranging changes to comply with CDC recommendations:

“St. Joe’s is on the leading edge,” said Dr. Lewis S. Nelson, a professor of emergency medicine at New York University School of Medicine, who sat on a panel that recommended recent opioid guidelines for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “But that involved a commitment to changing their entire culture.”

In doing so, St. Joe’s is taking on a challenge that is even more daunting than teaching new protocols to 79 doctors and 150 nurses. It must shake loose a longstanding conviction that opioids are the fastest, most surefire response to pain, an attitude held tightly not only by emergency department personnel, but by patients, too.

Is it too much for that lumbering behemoth VA to show the same sense of urgency?

I suppose we can continue to get distracted with the many other “big” issues facing our country, but providing our Veterans with proper therapy is one issue where Americans can easily unite.  Let’s not let the bottom line of Big Pharma distract us from that mission.  The brave men and women who have served our country deserve no less.

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Latest Developments on Treating PTSD

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Much has been written about the terrible long-term consequences of Post Traumatic Stress or “PTSD,” but there appears to be no clear way of treating PTSD.  Some argue that PTSD is best treated using “psychological” methods to treat the trauma while others argue that certain war-related events (i.e. IEDs) cause physiological changes in the brain.

treating ptsd

This dilemma makes diagnosing and treating PTSD so difficult.  Based on SFTT’s experiences, we have found that Veterans with symptoms of PTSD respond differently to various forms of therapy.   In short, there seems to be no definitive solution to a very serious problem which is now reaching epidemic proportions.

In a recent article published in the New York Times, medical scientists now believe that traumatic war-related events may actually cause physiological changes in the brain.

Quoting Dr. Daniel P. Perl, a neuropathologist who led a study for Lancent Neurology, evidence now exists that changes brain patterns:

Less understood is how the blast wave — the pulse of compressed air that shoots in all directions faster than the speed of sound and arrives before the wind — affects brain tissue after crashing through the helmet and skull. Blasts are also believed to compress the sternum and send shock waves through the body’s blood vessels and up into the brain. . .

The researchers examined the brains of the five veterans who had been exposed to blasts, and compared samples with those of 16 other veterans and civilians with and without brain injuries from military service or other activities. Scar tissue in specific locations of the cerebral cortex, which regulates emotional and cognitive functioning, was found only in the blast-injury cases.

Dr Perl and fellow researchers discovered the following changes in the brain following concussion like events:

Perl and his lab colleagues recognized that the injury that they were looking at was nothing like concussion. The hallmark of C.T.E. is an abnormal protein called tau, which builds up, usually over years, throughout the cerebral cortex but especially in the temporal lobes, visible across the stained tissue like brown mold. What they found in these traumatic-brain-injury cases was totally different: a dust-like scarring, often at the border between gray matter (where synapses reside) and the white matter that interconnects it. Over the following months, Perl and his team examined several more brains of service members who died well after their blast exposure, including a highly decorated Special Operations Forces soldier who committed suicide. All of them had the same pattern of scarring in the same places, which appeared to correspond to the brain’s centers for sleep, cognition and other classic brain-injury trouble spots.

Then came an even more surprising discovery. They examined the brains of two veterans who died just days after their blast exposure and found embryonic versions of the same injury, in the same areas, and the development of the injuries seemed to match the time elapsed since the blast event. Perl and his team then compared the damaged brains with those of people who suffered ordinary concussions and others who had drug addictions (which can also cause visible brain changes) and a final group with no injuries at all. No one in these post-mortem control groups had the brown-dust pattern.

Dr. Perl on Treating PTSD

While it will takes years of analysis and research to determine whether these neurological changes can be reversed, many Veterans will continue to suffer the “invisible wounds of war.”  Dr. Perl is justifiably worried:

 After five years of working with the military, he (Dr. Perl) feels sure, he told me (author Robert Worth), that many blast injuries have not been identified. “We could be talking many thousands,” he (Perl) said. “And what scares me is that what we’re seeing now might just be the first round. If they survive the initial injuries, many of them may develop C.T.E. years or decades later.”

This is not hopeful news, but at least we as a society are beginning to take PTSD seriously.  Hopefully, we will not try and bury the research in the way the NFL has sought to hide the effects of CTE on NFL players and downplay its significance to football fans who seem addicted to the violence of the spectacle.

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Equine-Assisted PTSD Therapy Study Seeks Veteran Volunteers

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The New York Presbyterian Military Family Wellness Center at the Columbia Veterans Research Center is currently conducting a Trauma-Focused Equine-Assisted Therapy for Veterans with PTSD study.  See details below:

equine2

Through the NYP Military Family Wellness Center we offer veterans and family members evidence-based treatments at no cost in the context of a research study. Essentially, patients are periodically assessed during and after treatment so that we can learn more about the needs of the veteran population.

Equine Therapy Program

In the equine study we’re investigating the efficacy of an alternative treatment for PTSD that has not been thoroughly studied in the past. The treatment does not involve riding horses, but instead focuses on ground activities such as grooming and leading horses.

It is a group treatment with each group consisting of 4-6 veterans. Treatment sessions will take place at the Bergen Equestrian Center in Leonia, NJ (about 15 minutes away from our office in Washington Heights).

Veterans or their loved ones who seek more information, please contact Anne Hillburn at (646) 774-8042.

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VA Dismisses Alternative PTSD Therapies

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In what seems like a broken record, the Department of Veteran Affairs (the “VA”) continues to dismiss alternative therapies for treating PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder.

While not entirely dismissing the efficacy of “Complimentary and Alternative Medicine” or “CAM” for treating PTSD, the VA argues that CAM does not really fit-in all that well in the canons of Western medical practices:

Broadly conceptualized, “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) refers to treatments not considered to be standard in the current practice of Western medicine:

– Complementary refers to the use of these techniques in combination with conventional approaches.

– Alternative refers to their use in lieu of conventional practices.

Many treatments and techniques that are considered CAM within the U.S. are part of conventional medicinal practices in other parts of the world. As Western practitioners and consumers increasingly adopt these approaches, the boundaries between conventional medicine and CAM continue to shift. Please visit The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) for a complete overview of CAM interventions.

For instance, in describing acupuncture,  the VA notes that “. . . five of the six studies examined in that review were conducted in China, where acupuncture is a mainstream treatment. Therefore findings may not generalize to the use of acupuncture as a CAM modality in Western medicine.”

Accupuncture:  Alternative PTSD therapies

In effect, the VA is saying that clinical trials based on “western medicine” practices is the only recognized and authoritative standard to prescribe alternative therapies for treating PTSD.

The absurdity of the VA’s position is the assertion that Western medical practices are in some way scientifically better than Asian medical practices which date back over 2,000 years.  Imagine what Asian physicians might think of Western medical practices where:

– The first surgery using anesthesia was only performed in 1846;

Clean and relatively sanitary conditions in U.S. medical facilities didn’t really occur until 1900.  In fact, it is widely believed that President James Garfield died in 1881 because doctors used unsanitary medical instruments.

– The U.S. has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, far behind such countries (cities) as Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan.

The argument can be made – and should be made – that complimentary and alternative medicine that is non-invasive and has a long history of producing positive results in other countries should be made available to Veterans should they demand it.

As we are now discovering, FDA approved prescription drugs for treating the symptoms of PTSD are producing side-effects and dependencies that were simply not contemplated in clinical trials.  Why shouldn’t Veterans be given the option of determining what treatment alternative works best for their particular circumstances?

I have no idea why the VA has taken such an intransigent position regarding alternative treatment programs if its goal is to provide Veterans with improved outcomes for the many brave warriors who suffer the silent wounds of war.

Indeed, any non-invasive therapy seems preferable to the toxic prescription drugs now considered efficient by “Western medical practices.”

SFTT is not wedded to any particular therapy program to treat PTSD.  In fact, SFTT has been quite supportive of Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (“HBOT”), dog and equine therapy programs, Yoga and many others.

Based on SFTT’s observations, Veterans who suffer from PTSD tend to react differently to alternative therapy programs or conventional drug therapy.  Shouldn’t Veterans be free to choose which program seems to be more effective based on their own personal preferences?

Sadly, it seems that only public outrage and a radical overhaul of the VA will bring about a much needed change to the way Veterans with PTSD are provided effective therapy by “Big Brother” VA.

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Prescription Drug Abuse Hits Center Stage

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Veterans have known for quite some time that something was amiss at the Department of Veteran Affairs (the “VA’) with their “go-to” promotion of prescription pain-killers to treat PTSD.

There are countless well-documented stories of extreme behavior changes – including suicide – of “over-served” Veterans that were provided a lethal cocktail prescription drugs by VA doctors.

A number of Veterans interviewed by SFTT indicated that they simply “flushed the drugs down the toilet,” while many others reported that there was a thriving black market for pain medication.    In quite a few cases, Veterans were reported to sell VA-prescribed pain medication to others to feed other substance-abuse habits or simply to support their family.

Homeless Veteran with PTSD

Using US government statistics, CNN provides these alarming statistics on prescription drug abuse for the general public:

Death from prescription opioid overdose has quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that in 2014, about 15 million people in the United States older than 12 were non-medical users of pain relievers. On the agency’s website, it offers a behavioral health treatment services locator where individuals can type in their ZIP code and get directions to treatment centers in their community.

In fact, the CNN article goes on to suggest that Veterans should call  the Veterans Crisis Line which directs veterans and their loved ones to “qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hot line”: 1-800-273-8255, option 1.

Stand for The Troops (“SFTT”) has featured this Veteran Hot Line number prominently on its website for quite some time as well as other useful treatment options that Veterans or their loved ones may wish to consider.

In fact, I found it somewhat surprising that the CDC (Center for Controlled Diseases) should announce that “medical errors are the third largest cause of death in the U.S.” after cancer and heart disease.    The timing of this release over the public uproar of prescription drug abuse seems suspicious.

If we add “medical errors” and deaths attributed to “prescription drugs” together, one could argue that visiting a doctor is hazardous to your health.

It would be totally unreasonable and a specious assault on the integrity of the medical profession to suggest that malpractice and an undo reliance on prescription pain-killers is evidence of a medical profession that is out of control.

Clearly, more “good” is being done by the medical profession than “bad,” but it seems clear that individuals need to take more responsibility for the drugs they are ingesting.    In fact, our school system seems to have it right with their “Just Say No” campaign to cut back on drug addiction and substance abuse in general.

Just Say No

Veterans with PTSD and Treatment Alternatives

While the VA has often been singled out by SFTT and others – most notably by the GAO – for chronic mismanagement of Veteran care, most would acknowledge that this huge organization does a reasonable job to support our Veterans.

Nevertheless, there is clear evidence that the VA has been over-reliant on prescription drugs to treat Veterans with PTSD and publicly dismissive on other alternative treatment therapies recommended by third-party providers that conflict with their own treatment methodologies.

With substance abuse now rampant throughout the United States and fueled by a lackadaisical approach by an unsuspecting public and unscrupulous medical practitioners, it seems high time that the VA begin to encourage Veterans to seek alternative treatments that seem to provide better patient outcomes.

Indeed, SFTT lists a number of alternative treatments under its Rescue Coalition that provides community-based programs to Veterans without the dependency on addictive pain-killers.  Isn’t this the way forward?

The VA should take the lead in both nurturing and encouraging the  growth of these programs rather than rely on dated and stale practices which continue to rely on prescription drugs.

Samples of alternative treatments abound.  In fact, in a recent New York Times report, Dr. Denzil Hawkinberry, an anesthesiologist and pain management consultant for Community Care in West Virginia, imposes very rigorous standards on who should be prescribed opioids.  Perhaps, the VA could take a page out of Dr. Hawkinberry’s book and dial back the use of prescription drugs in favor of other treatment methodologies.

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Opiate Abuse Mounts: Veterans in Crossfire

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The tragic death of Prince appears to have been an overdose of opioids designed to relieve pain.  While we are still awaiting toxicology reports, it does appear the Prince has suffered from excruciating pain for quite some time and was taking ever-increasing amounts of pain-killers to deal with this problem.

Prince

At this stage, it is unclear that these drugs were prescribed or that he was self-medicating with drugs obtained illicitly.   In fact, some argue that Prince did not die from pain pills but from chronic pain.

Whatever is determined to be the final cause of Prince’s death, it is abundantly clear that Prince was in great pain and that he took a variety of addictive drugs to help him deal with this problem.

You don’t have to stray far to see that addiction to pain-killers has reached epidemic proportions in the United States.  In fact, in late March President Obama called attention to this growing problem by saying the following:

“When you look at the staggering statistics, in terms of lives lost, productivity impacted, costs to communities, but most importantly cost to families from this epidemic of opioid abuse, it has to be something that is right up there at the top of our radar screen,” Obama said at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta.

The epidemic is a rising issue in U.S. politics that has found its way into the presidential campaign. Both of the front-running candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, have been confronted on the campaign trail by ordinary people affected by drug abuse, and have responded with widely disparate strategies to confront the problem. The Obama administration has meanwhile proposed a dramatic increase in federal spending, to about $1.5 billion in fiscal 2017, for addiction treatment and other measures to stem the epidemic.

“Today, we are seeing more people killed because of opioid overdose than traffic accidents,” Obama said.

“We’re taking a number of steps, but frankly we’re still under-resourced,” Obama added. “I think the public doesn’t fully appreciate yet the scope of the problem.”

While the general public may not be aware of the problem, Veterans and our military leaders are well aware of the devastating consequences of taking prescription drugs to deal with PTSD and other brain-related traumas.

veterans with ptsd opioids

Stand For The Troops has been reporting for years on the effects of prescribing potentially lethal combinations to Veterans with PTSD.    Even the FDA is concerned as evidenced by their recent initiative to seek tighter controls on the use of prescription drugs.

Clearly, prescription drugs can play an important role in helping Veterans cope with the symptoms of PTSD, but it should now be obvious that prolonged use of opioids or other addictive pain-killers is not a long-term solution that will benefit Veterans.

Nevertheless, the Department of Veteran Affairs (the “VA”) continues to drag their feet on providing Veterans with access to other less dangerous treatment alternatives.

The VA can continue to stonewall this problem claiming “lack of resources,” or “lack of clinical evidence” for alternative treatments, but the continued use of haze-inducing opiates is certainly not the answer our Veterans expect nor deserve.

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