Another collection of news and commentary on issues important to veterans and their families -- especially those coping with PTSD.
In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.
PTSD Combat News Roundup: June 28-July 9, 2006
June 28, 2006 - Inside Bay Area:
Veterans to test stress treatment
Researchers hope to find relief from PTSD in TB medication
A drug used for years to treat tuberculosis has been shown to alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress, and Bay Area researchers are now seeking to test its effectiveness in returning war veterans. Researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center say they hope that a combination of therapy and the TB medication will give relief from post-traumatic stress disorder more quickly, and they hope the effects will last longer.
The drug, called D-cycloserine, or DCS, belongs to a class of compounds that affect NMDA receptors, which act on the underlying mechanism of the brain that controls learning and memory. "It's a way of tapping into the circuitry of the brain that unlearns the fear response," said Dr. Charles Marmar, chief investigator at the VA and vice chairman of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.
Recent studies have indicated that DCS accelerates the rate at which fears and phobias can be extinguished. DCS is a low-cost and widely available medication that has no side effects in humans.Marmar and his colleagues are recruiting Northern California combat veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 to participate in the trial. Veterans can be active duty, National Guard or Reservists — anyone who saw action during the war. More >>
June 30, 2006 - CNN:
Women at war: Mental health toll unknown
More American women are closer to combat in Iraq than in any other modern war, and there are many unknowns about the mental health effects they may experience when they come home from the war zone. "In the civilian world, post-traumatic stress disorder has traditionally been much more common in women than in men," says Col. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, the psychiatry consultant to the U.S. Army surgeon general. "This is the first time that we've really had a large number of women that are over in a combat zone so we are studying how they do, but the results aren't out yet."
Shell shock, war neurosis, battle fatigue. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, has gone by many names in a century's worth of wars. First recognized as an official diagnosis five years after the Vietnam War, the psychiatric disorder can strike a person after life-threatening events -- such as wars or natural disasters -- with symptoms such as flashbacks, detachment or depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
"What we're seeing now, very commonly, is similar to PTSD after Vietnam, but it has its own pattern -- we're seeing a lot of nightmares, we're seeing people who have hyper-vigilance and then some difficulty fitting back in," Ritchie says. "And I think it will actually be awhile before we really have the full picture."
But how post-traumatic stress disorder affects women who served in war zones is still at the early stages of research. One of the few studies done involved female Vietnam veterans in 1983 and found more than a quarter suffered from the disorder sometime during their postwar lives, according to the National Center for PTSD. In the general population, women suffer from the disorder at twice the rate as men.
Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs reports that about a third of the servicemen and women from Iraq who sought health care were seeking help for mental health issues. The proportion of women is not known, according to spokesman Jim Benson.
One survey released by the Army in 2005, however, found that the rates of mental health problems among returning male and female soldiers from Iraq were similar -- 13 percent and 12 percent, respectively. More >>
July 6, 2006 - KeepMECurrent.com:
The unseen trauma of war – A generation later the Army has a different attitude on mental health
With a Vietnam veteran for a father and a World War II prisoner of war for a grandfather, Darrell Caron of Westbrook knows how the horrors of war can affect former soldiers. Caron, an Army Reserve captain, is now witnessing the direct effect of war on soldiers in Iraq, where he is a counselor to the men and women serving on the front line.
Many don't sleep well. They’re alert, hypersensitive to danger. They’re exhausted, yet they can’t relax. Some have seen or experienced things that give them nightmares. They’re restless, nervous, scared of being in a crowd. They may see faces in dreams. They may feel guilt or remorse because of those faces.
The symptoms Caron is witnessing are not new to this war. However, the way the military is responding to those symptoms and the overall mental health of soldiers is different. Mental trauma is no longer a taboo subject. Caron’s position as a counselor speaks to that. He knows his father and grandfather didn’t have anyone like him to talk to.
After the Vietnam War, the military began improving the way it responded to the mental health of soldiers, who now have the opportunity to meet with counselors during war. Many of them also receive mandatory counseling when they return from war after serving in combat. ...
A 'point of exhaustion'
Caron said two combat scenarios account for the majority of troubles he sees in soldiers.
Roadside bombs cause quite a lot of stress, he said, because of their unexpected and traumatic nature. Caron said the event causes a lot of nightmares, restlessness, fear of crowds and fear of being in vehicles. Caron spoke of one Marine who had 40 percent of his face paralyzed because of a roadside bomb. He said the Marine had nightmares, was angry, couldn’t be in a crowd and jumped at the slightest noise. “It’s a very common response,” said Caron.
Foot patrols are also nerve wracking because the soldier is totally exposed. If they engage an enemy, they may actually see the person’s face. Caron said they tend to see the person again in dreams and feel guilt, remorse and even anger after taking the person’s life.
The general alertness and hypersensitivity to danger is also a common cause of troubles in soldiers, according to Caron. “It mentally and physically puts them to a point of exhaustion where it’s hard for them to relax, hard for them to sleep,” he said.
He said some of the worst cases he sees are soldiers who have done multiple stints in-country. He said many of them think it’ll be different when they come back a second time, but all the old problems spring up again. More >>
July 6, 2006 - Men's News Daily
Alleged US Atrocities in Iraq Lead to Investigations, Speculation
At Yale University Medical School, Psychiatrist Deane Aikins is working on a research project with the U.S. Army to determine the impact of stress on soldiers. The study is still in its early stages, but he says he has already determined, through brain imaging, that some soldiers physically deal with the stress of battle better than others. He says troops have to deal with what is called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, even while they are still in the stressful environment of combat. But he says such stress is usually internalized. “The PTSD doesn’t make you go and become homicidal. It’s very internalized anguish,” said Dr. Aikins.
Dr. Aikins says he is looking for physical traits revealed in the brain images that might help predict whether a person will be a good soldier. But he says he and other researchers have not found any such traits yet. “Can we predict who will perform poorly? There is 60 years of research that say we can’t, with combat service. So, this idea of can we predict who would commit a war atrocity, we don’t know how to do that. And part of it is because, look, it’s so rare,” added Dr. Aikins. More >>
July 9, 2006 - Worcester Telegram & Gazette:
War veterans facing a battle back home
Post-traumatic stress disorder haunts many returning soldiers
Subbing for a colleague at a congressional town meeting in Western Massachusetts, U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, heard a story from the father of a U.S. serviceman that framed the Iraq War in a way he will never forget.
The man had come to the forum in Montague to tell Mr. McGovern, who was filling in for U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, about how he and his wife prayed every night for their son’s safe return from his tour of duty. Their wish was granted, but it came with a price. The 23-year-old war veteran was behaving erratically, in ways unlike any he had shown before he left. He was drinking heavily and was noticeably emotional.
One night he laid his head on his father’s lap and promptly burst into tears, saying he couldn’t handle what he had seen and experienced in Iraq. He had not been screened upon his return home and was obviously suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The next time his head was in my lap was after I cut the hose he used to hang himself in my home,” the father told McGovern.
A recent study by the Department of Veterans Affairs predicted the number of veterans with this stress disorder will reach 30,000 by October, a near doubling of that figure in the span of a year. Additionally, the federal Government Accountability Office released a study in May showing that 8 of 10 servicemen returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are at risk for PTSD but are not being referred for mental health evaluation.
The head of the Worcester Vet Center, 597 Lincoln St., reports an increase in Iraq War veterans with PTSD. The regional director of VA clinics, based in Manchester, N.H., said the trend is evident throughout New England and the entire country. More >>