Starting in 2010, Congress named June 27th PTSD Awareness Day (S. Res. 455). In 2014, the Senate designated the full month of June for National PTSD Awareness (S. Res. 481). The purpose of PTSD Awareness Month is to encourage everyone to raise public awareness of PTSD and effective treatments. We can all help those affected by PTSD.1
So yesterday was PTSD awareness day. I am an advocate for veterans of any kind, and my wife Chandra and I have worked tirelessly with our military veterans. Regarding PTSD, along with many fund raising groups, non profits, or some that discuss PTSD, the word ‘public awareness’ seems to be a buzz word for raising money. That’s great, so what’s next?
PTSD treatments and rates of success
The Mayo clinic states Post-traumatic stress disorder treatment can help you regain a sense of control over your life. The primary treatment is psychotherapy, but can also include medication. Here are Mayo clinic solutions for PTSD:
Several types of psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, may be used to treat children and adults with PTSD. Some types of psychotherapy used in PTSD treatment include:
- Cognitive therapy. This type of talk therapy helps you recognize the ways of thinking (cognitive patterns) that are keeping you stuck.
- Exposure therapy. This behavioral therapy helps you safely face both situations and memories that you find frightening so that you can learn to cope with them effectively.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR combines exposure therapy with a series of guided eye movements that help you process traumatic memories and change how you react to them.
- Antidepressants. These medications can help symptoms of depression and anxiety. They can also help improve sleep problems and concentration. The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil) are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for PTSD treatment.
- Anti-anxiety medications. These drugs can relieve severe anxiety and related problems. Some anti-anxiety medications have the potential for abuse, so they are generally used only for a short time.
- Prazosin. If symptoms include insomnia with recurrent nightmares, a drug called prazosin (Minipress) may help. Although not specifically FDA approved for PTSD treatment, prazosin may reduce or suppress nightmares in many people with PTSD.2
The Link between PTSD and Substance Abuse/Addiction
People who suffer from PTSD are between two and four times more likely to also battle addiction than their peers who do not also struggle with PTSD, the journal Clinical Psychology publishes.
Correlation between Stress, Drug Use, and Addiction
Substance abuse, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a complex relationship that can complicate treatment modalities. High levels of stress can make it more likely for a person to turn to drugs or alcohol as a means of escape. Drugs can increase pleasure, decrease anxiety, and provide a distraction from difficult emotions.
When someone feels stressed, levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) are lowered, and adrenaline is increased. GABA is a kind of natural tranquilizer produced by the brain that can also be stimulated by drugs that suppress the central nervous system, like opioids, marijuana, alcohol, and benzodiazepines. Drugs also increase the presence of dopamine in the brain, one of the brain’s chemical messengers that tells a person to feel happy. When the substances wear off, low moods are common as dopamine levels drop.3
How common is co-occurring PTSD and SUD in Veterans?
Studies show that there is a strong relationship between PTSD and SUD, in both civilian and military populations, as well as for both men and women.
Specific to Veterans from 2016:
- More than 2 of 10 Veterans with PTSD also have SUD.
- War Veterans with PTSD and alcohol problems tend to be binge drinkers. Binges may be in response to bad memories of combat trauma.
- Almost 1 out of every 3 Veterans seeking treatment for SUD also has PTSD.
- The number of Veterans who smoke (nicotine) is almost double for those with PTSD (about 6 of 10) versus those without a PTSD diagnosis (3 of 10).
- In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 1 in 10 returning soldiers seen in VA have a problem with alcohol or other drugs.4
VA suicide rates
According to the VA, an average of 20 veterans died from suicide every day in 2014.
The VA examined over 55 million veteran records from 1979 to 2014 from every state in the nation. The last time the VA conducted a study like this was in 2010, but that report included data from only 20 states.
In 2014, 7,403 American veterans committed suicide, out of 41,425 suicides among U.S. adults that year. That’s just under 18 percent, down from 22 percent in 2010.
Today’s report also included comparisons between civilians and veterans. From 2001 to 2014, the VA found, suicides among U.S. adult civilians increased 23 percent while veteran suicides increased 32 percent — making the risk of suicide 21 percent greater for veterans than civilians (after controlling for age and gender).
Older veterans face a higher risk of suicide, the data showed. In 2014 about 65 percent of veterans who died from suicide were 50 years or older.5
Something to consider
So we have an alarming rate of suicides with veterans and I believe Army is highest. Looking at the top solutions for our Veterans, what do we have from above?
In 2015 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reveals that go-to treatments for the disorder may not be as effective as many in the medical community may have believed or hoped. The research showed that while up to 70% of the men and women who received CPT or PE experienced symptom improvements, around two-thirds of people receiving the treatments still met the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis after treatment. 6
Here is a good one. Let’s look at the success of medications with veterans and PTSD.
18 U.S. veterans commit suicide daily; largely due to psychiatric drugs.7
Treatment for PTSD may be killing veterans.8
There needs to be more action taken for veterans. For veterans themselves, our research foundation the Vandry Hope Foundation works on research and time on Chronic pain, TBI, Legal blindness and PTSD. We have been through veterans and civilians to aid, help and make a difference. I will also note, the above quotes on alcoholism and drugs must be taken into consideration. For PTSD, it starts with your therapy, but ultimately, if you have a toxic lifestyle it makes it worse. Start with putting yourself back together. My wife and I have spent so many hundreds of hours with those with PTSD, or civilians with Chronic pain, anxiety and so many other conditions. There are times we spend hours supporting those that seek us, and many times in the end, they themselves do nothing or go to other
In closing, I myself have worked with veterans, and many of you know of our Miracle oil product that relieves pain, and has worked excellent in results with veterans. You can go to our youtube mini documentary on 7 veterans we worked on. You can view it yourself: