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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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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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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What the Greeks Knew About PTSD

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I admire the Greek classics, in particular Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.   As such, I was intrigued by a Greenwich “Continuing Education” course entitled “What the Greeks Knew About PTSD.”   Also, the course was being taught by a professor I respected and, as such, was very much looking forward to become reacquainted with the classics and, perhaps, gain a few insights into PTSD.

Achilles and PTSD

In addition to Homer, we also read two PTSD relevant plays by Sophocles:  Ajax and Philoctetes. Connecting classical Greek literature to PTSD was accomplished by relating Johnathan Shay’s book entitled Achilles in Vietnam and  Bryan Doerries, The Theater of War.

Personally, I am open to any form of therapy that works and doesn’t  harm  the Veteran or others in the process.  Nevertheless, I believe that Shay’s analysis in suggesting that PTSD was handled better by the Greeks is a bit labored.   Doerries is to be applauded by providing therapeutic relief through Greek plays, but this form of “theater therapy” may not appeal to many Veterans.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the classes – and do plan to carry on re-reading the Greek classics – I didn’t want class participants to become convinced that they can “understand” PTSD by a simple reading the Classics.  As such, I provided the following commentary which was read to the class:

My issue with Shay/Doerries – at least how it is presented – is that there are a specific set of events that triggers PTSD.   That is simply not the case.  In fact, the scientific community has found that pre-conditions for PTSD (i.e. childhood trauma) may exist long before the Veteran has been exposed to combat.  Combat simply wakes up these embedded traumas.

Improvised Explosive Devices or “IED’s” cause concussions and worse.  Brain scans show “injured areas” of the brain that can respond to some medical treatments better than others.  In milder cases, physicians and clinical phycologists often try to reprogram the brain to handle stress differently in much the same way we teach young children to develop coping mechanisms to overcome dyslexia.

I don’t wish to minimize anything that either Shay/Doerries provide Veterans.  Quite the contrary.  If it helps, great!    Sadly, I have seen far too many cases of warriors with PTSD, which probably wouldn’t be open to this particular form of therapy.

Other approaches and solutions are needed.  In other words, there is no silver bullet or specific causal relationship between combat and PTSD that can be clearly identified, let alone understood.  Multiple factors are at work, which makes therapy so complicated.

Treating PTSD is not an exact science and there are no easy solutions.  I suspect that the Greeks discovered that for themselves.

Having knowledge about the symptoms of PTSD is very much different than treating PTSD.   Sadly, the VA will often provide a cocktail of prescription drugs which helps Veterans cope with the awful symptoms of PTSD but offer very little in the way of a long-term cure – if indeed, that actually exists.

The consequences of this debilitating injury to the Veteran, his loved ones and society is considerable.  Our Veterans deserve our full support if they can ever expect to reclaim their lives.

With regard to PTSD, SFTT is rather pragmatic.  Whatever works – and doesn’t  harm  the Veteran or others – is good!   Personally, we wish the VA were a bit more progressive in providing Veterans access to alternative treatments and – most importantly – work with private institutions and charitable organizations to help provide Veterans with a wider variety of treatment alternatives even though expected outcomes cannot be properly evaluated at this stage.

Our brave young men and women deserve no less.

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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.

us-army-helmet-sensors

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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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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