No one will argue that being in the military, especially during deployment is extremely stressful. During times of war, soldiers see and do things that they just can’t forget. Many come home and are not the same as when they left. Injuries, trauma and brain injuries have scarred them for what could be forever.
As a result, these days soldiers are routinely diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) followed by a prescription for one or more mind-altering psychiatric drugs. One may get a prescription for an antidepressant, an anti-anxiety medication, a sleeping pill, an antipsychotic or all of these together which make quite a toxic cocktail. Are soldiers “cured” of PTSD by taking these medications? Certainly not. Instead, these medications put them into a worse condition. This is why now is the time for the military to look into alternative treatments for PTSD.
Psychiatric drugs are only an attempt at a “quick fix” to reduce symptoms. The result is solely sedation and is not a long term solution which should be addressing the root of the stress. The worst part is that these kinds of drugs can have horrific side effects such as mania, psychosis, increased risk of suicide and homicidal ideation. Especially the military should not have to experience these side effects. Instead, they should know that they can engage in alternative treatments for PTSD which are safe and effective.
Fort Hood had a mass shooting five years ago where thirteen people were killed. Recently there was another shooting at Fort Hood where three were killed and sixteen wounded. The rates of suicide and sudden death (from too many drugs), has increased dramatically over the past ten years. Over 6500 soldiers commit suicide every year. Does this sound like the military is getting the help it needs? Does this sound like psychiatric drugs are effective?
The Department of Defense has spent millions on programs to prevent stress-related problems but there is no evidence of any efficacy. The military needs people that can operate efficiently with less stress, before and after they serve. It is not acceptable for the military to risk their lives for their country and then become addicted to drugs and possibly become suicidal. These people deserve much better than that. Now is the time to stop prescribing psychiatric drugs and start looking into alternative treatments for PTSD.
One treatment that has been found to be effective is TM (transcendental mediation). There are plenty of research studies that show that TM dramatically reduces stress, anxiety, depression and other symptoms. A group of Viet Nam veterans saw a substantial reduction of their symptoms after three months of TM whereas the control group using psychotherapy (and probably drugs), showed no significant improvement. Even a retired US Army Reserve Colonel said that TM provides the mind and body with a unique state of “restful alertness” and reduces deeply rooted stress and improves brain function.
On a plus note, the Department of Defense is funding a $2.4 million study at the San Diego VA Medical Center to compare TM to psychotherapy. This is a step in the right direction towards using alternative treatments for PTSD, but it is a long way from fixing the current system.
Besides prescribing psychiatric drugs, the main downfall of the military’s mental health programs are a one size fits all approach. Often the programs are created externally by other organizations or insurance companies who are not part of the military. They design a treatment program and sell it to the Department of Defense. This one size fits all approach comes at a considerable expense since it does not come from within the military. Adding the fact that it does not meet each person’s needs, adds up to an ineffective and unworkable system.
Each person in the military should be treated as an individual with their own specific needs, as each person is different. Every person’s stress and anxiety levels are not the same and should not be treated as such. How much stress one person can handle and what kind of stress it is can vary greatly. Each person should get a tailor made program, just like a personal trainer would come up with a personal fitness program to match their client’s needs to improve their level of strength and health.
This is why alternative treatments for PTSD would be safer and more effective than psychotropic drugs. One person may benefit from TM, whereas another may respond to yoga or another form of exercise. There is also acupuncture, dietary supplements, outdoor retreats or using a therapy dog to help reduce symptoms. One example is a man that was in the Coast Guard in Viet Nam handled his self-destructive and suicidal behavior through art. He wrote, performed and copyrighted a song and video dedicated to veterans.
Additionally, effective alternative treatments for PTSD were found by a medical task force created within a group called Stand for the Troops. They found that hyperbaric oxygen, which is breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room, is helpful. They also are advocating autologous stem cell therapy which is using one’s own stem cells as treatment.
The point is going down the narrow road of psychotropic drugs as the only treatment for PTSD has met a dead end. Antidepressants, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs and the like aren’t helping the military and are only hurting them. Most likely there are other alternative treatments for PTSD not even mentioned here. It’s time to look around and find out what really works so that the military can get the care they need.