It is time to help our Veterans


| 6 Comments

The United States has a large problem on its hands that always seems to take a back seat to other issues. It involves veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan returning home from the war who suffer from post-traumatic stress (PTSD). It is unacceptable that over 27% of veterans returning from the wars suffer from PTSD after all that they have done for this country[1]. Even worse, the number of suicides continues to remain high even as the wars dwindle down. How could we as a country allow our soldiers, who have made an incredible sacrifice, to suffer from PTSD and not do anything to fix it?

Veterans.jpg


Non-profit groups in the United States are beginning to take a look at drugs long considered dangerous and harmful, including MDMA which is better known as ecstasy. The drug has been illegal since 1985; however, the government has recently granted a small number of licenses to scientists to run studies and trials on its potential effect on PTSD. One of the treatments being studied now "combines psychotherapy with a dose of MDMA... and found 15 of 21 people who recovered from severe post-traumatic stress in the therapy in the early 2000s reported minor to virtually no symptoms today".[2] Now it should be noted that the sample size is very small so no conclusions can be reached at this point. Having noted the small sample size, hopefully these results will eventually lead to larger studies. The larger studies are currently unavailable because MDMA is illegal.

The search to treat PTSD has led scientists and doctors to look at unorthodox methods because of the lack of success and staggering suicide numbers. This led them to being experimenting with LSD, marijuana, and MDMA.  The latter seems to relax the soldiers and produce tranquility while not causing a high, unlike marijuana and LSD. "Studies of people taking MDMA suggest that the drug induces, among other things, the release of a hormone called oxytocin, which is thought to increase sensations of trust and affection. The drug also seems to tamp down activity in a brain region called the amygdala, which flares during fearful, threatening situations." This allows the veterans to be very relaxed when they go through the psychotherapy portion of the treatment. The relief that soldiers feel has been reported to be twice that of non-MDMA treatments and has led more than two hundred and fifty veterans to apply for the next trials.[2]

Another tragic fact about veterans is that "on any given night, more than 300,000 veterans are living on the streets or in shelters in the U.S" often due to PTSD and the lack of transferable skills.[3] We as a nation need to find a way to lower homelessness, suicides, and PTSD in veterans. One way that hopefully continues is to look at unorthodox methods such as illegal drugs. Often times drugs are banned and made illegal before they are fully understood. If there is an unknown medical benefit that can be gained, I think that it is our duty to learn more about it. Our current methods are not working as the numbers clearly show. It is time to test and study all possible drugs in the hopes that we can someday end PTSD and suicides.



[1] http://nation.time.com/2011/08/09/suicides-ptsd-and-drug-abuse-among-combat-vets/

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/20/health/ecstasy-treatment-for-post-traumatic-stress-shows-promise.html?miiaou&_r=0

[3] http://www.veteransinc.org/about-us/statistics/#homelessness


6 Comments

PTSD is a serious issue for veterans. It's real and should not be downplayed. However, I do not feel using MDMA, marijuana or LSD is the right answer to try to fix PTSD.

Earlier in the semester, I wrote about a drug that could potentially get rid of bad memories. https://blogs.psu.edu/mt4/mt.cgi?__mode=view&_type=entry&id=659650&blog_id=78373

Scientists were effective in curing bad memories from mice, but do you think it can be effective in humans? Should we try?

I agree with Jason. I don't believe we should treat our veterans suffering from PTSD with mind-altering substances. Yes there are substances that can affect one's memory, but it's dangerous to mess with chemicals in the brain. I believe the mind is strong and can be taught to overcome almost anything. Giving someone drugs would just put a band-aid on the problem. To make any real change takes time. The VA is researching new ways to treat PTSD. They have come up with a treatment called exposure-based treatments which uses new technology to virtually recreate the traumatic event. Here's the link explaining more.

VA Doctors Looking for New Ways to Treat PTSD

I am a vet and I would never want my brothers taking LSD or MDMA. There are plenty of other alternatives.

It's amazing the way that people try to "sweep PTSD under the rug." In previous wars, PTSD was known as "shell shock" or "Soldier's Heart." Today's treatments are not necessarily more abundant, but they are certainly more effective than many years ago because we have a slightly better understanding of the disorder.

PTSD Information, PBS:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/heart/themes/shellshock.html

Still, there is no doubt that our current way of getting to those that need help is far from perfect. I think that, ideally, every veteran who shows signs of PTSD should start solely with counseling or therapy as a first option. However, I think ruling out any kind of mind-altering drug is a little drastic. There are many legal, FDA approved anti-depressant that, when prescribed and taken correctly, can do a lot of good for people who may need more in addition to counseling. I don't think MDMA is the best choice as I think prescribing it to vets could set a negative and dangerous precedent for other drugs to become legal.

It's amazing the way that people try to "sweep PTSD under the rug." In previous wars, PTSD was known as "shell shock" or "Soldier's Heart." Today's treatments are not necessarily more abundant, but they are certainly more effective than many years ago because we have a slightly better understanding of the disorder.

PTSD Information, PBS:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/heart/themes/shellshock.html

Still, there is no doubt that our current way of getting to those that need help is far from perfect. I think that, ideally, every veteran who shows signs of PTSD should start solely with counseling or therapy as a first option. However, I think ruling out any kind of mind-altering drug is a little drastic. There are many legal, FDA approved anti-depressants that, when prescribed and taken correctly, can do a lot of good for people who may need more in addition to counseling. I don't think MDMA is the best choice as I think prescribing it to vets could set a negative and dangerous precedent for other illegal drugs to become legal.


VA Doctors Looking for New Ways to Treat PTSD *

Allow me to rephrase my statement because I agree with what you said. Firstly, those affected by PTSD should start with therapy before trying anything else. There are plenty of legal anti-depressants to try but there are other methods to that can work just as well. LSD and MDMA shouldn't be considered. It's not enough to cover up the pain with drugs. Anyone suffering from PTSD should address the problem and overcome it; not cope with it in a drug induced stupor.

Richard I understand where you are coming from and I agree that many drugs have bad effects and may not be the answer. I don't really know anything about LSD so I can not make an informed statement on that, but from what I read, MDMA was special because it did not give the "high" that comes from other drugs, such as LSD and marijuana. The MDMA simply allows a patient to go into their psychotherapy session and feel relaxed and able to talk about their experiences. The patients also do not have to continue taking MDMA after their sessions. From what I understand, it is just necessary for the therapy sessions. Also, are those legal anti-depressants better? Many prescription drugs have unpleasant side effects that may be avoidable. I simply think that we don't know enough about MDMA to simply say it is bad. Marijuana has been illegal for years, but is slowly becoming more accepted for its medical benefits.

I will say the stuff they are doing at the VA Medical Center is very interesting, and the best part is that it should be easily accessible for veterans. I still don't know much about transcranial magnetic stimulation though. Time to write another blog

Leave a comment

Subscribe to receive notifications of follow up comments via email.
We are processing your request. If you don't see any confirmation within 30 seconds, please reload your page.

Search This Blog

Full Text  Tag

Recent Entries

Hybrids
Everyone has heard of them as being the best car out there, mainly cause of gas prices. Hybrids are sweeping…
Break-Ups
People everywhere are breaking up, just in time for the holidays. And the more couples I see parting ways, the…
Pregnancy Tests
While browsing Andrew's blog and looking to see all of the posts that I missed (I'm pretty sure I haven't…

Old Contributions