August 30, 2014

Chronic Childhood Abuse Likely to Trigger Adult PTSD

post traumatic stressWhen the topic of PTSD comes up, many people tend to focus on military veterans who have returned from overseas deployments with symptoms generally associated with stress disorder:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • poor sleeping patterns
  • anger control issues
  • sensitivity to visual or auditory stimuli
  • flashbacks associated with visual or auditory stimuli
  • poor concentration
  • social isolation

Social Security disability attorneys do see increasing numbers of PTSD cases arising from military service but this is not the only source of this type of claim. [Read More...]

New Georgia bill allows vets to state whether they suffer from PTSD on their driver’s license

You can tell a lot about a person by simply looking at their driver’s license.  Aside from the obvious home address and age, you can find out what color eyes a person has, whether they possess a commercial license, and whether they have corrective vision.  Our licenses are used everywhere from restaurants and bars to employment situations.  They are most often used, however, in law enforcement situations.  Police officers can use licenses to find out who a person is and whether he/she is in violation of the law.  For instance, if an individual should be driving with glasses or other corrective eyewear and they are not, they are violating the law according to their license.  In an effort to further assist law enforcement officials in Georgia, the legislature has passed a bill that allows veterans to designate if they suffer from post traumatic stress disorder on their licenses. [Read More...]

A Closer Look at PTSD: PTSD Gene Research

There may be more to post traumatic stress disorder than meets the eye.  According to new studies, there may be actual genetic changes that occur in individuals with the condition.  The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and reported by Science News, indicates that there are definite genetic differences between people living with post traumatic disorder and overall healthy individuals.  Despite this comparison, however, the study did not resolve how or whether these genetic changes impact the condition.

Researchers from the Columbia University in New York wanted to know why some people who experienced a traumatic event develop post traumatic stress disorder, while others do not.  They examined blood samples from approximately one hundred individuals who had been exposed to a traumatic event.  Out of this sampling, twenty-three people had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.  The researchers proceeded to test various genes to see if there were any chemical alterations to the DNA.  The team believed that if there was an increase or decrease in methylation in certain genes, that there might be a way to link this occurrence to post traumatic stress disorder.  They found that people with post traumatic stress disorder exhibited less methylation in some immune system genes and more methylation in genes associated with brain cell development.  Methylation, according to Science News, is when a methyl molecule is connected to DNA, thereby preventing the production of the protein that the gene may encode, and essentially rendering the gene inept.  It appears from this study, as well as previous genetic studies, that post traumatic stress disorder is linked with immune system suppression.

Although the study shows an association, just how and why post traumatic stress disorder changes methylation in the cells is still unanswered.  The researchers acknowledge that additional research is needed and on a much larger scale, as one hundred participants is relatively small.  They do hope, however, that with more intensive research, the exact mechanism for these changes will be uncovered and possibly lead to genetic intervention for those living with the condition.  It may open up an entire new chapter on treatment options for the disorder and possibly, even a way to cure individuals.  There may come a time when a person simply needs to have his/her blood taken and evaluated for methylation changes in order to obtain a proper diagnosis and subsequent treatment.

MDMA may be a viable option for treating PTSD, research suggests

It looks like the drug known as Ecstasy is making a comeback. But wait – I don’t mean in underground clubs or at college parties, but rather in the unlikely spot of a health care clinic. A new study is revealing that use of Ecstasy (otherwise known as MDMA), in addition to talk therapy, may relieve some of the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. We have previously discussed how marijuana may also help people suffering from the condition, but now it appears that Ecstasy may also provide similar therapeutic benefits.

The study was conducted by a non-profit group, Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, and done in conjunction with a Charleston, South Carolina psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Mithoefer. The researchers’ hope is that the study will help to include MDMA as part of a prescription therapy for post traumatic stress disorder in private practice. The study included twenty participants who had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and found no relief from conventional treatments, according to Reuters. Some were given a dose of MDMA while others received a placebo, and after two months their post traumatic stress disorder symptoms were tested. The researchers discovered that those taking Ecstasy had a reduction in symptoms, and after three years this disappearance of symptoms still prevailed. In fact, thirteen of the participants no longer met the diagnosis criteria for post traumatic stress disorder, even though two other patients relapsed. [Read More...]

Multiple Tours of Duty and the Development of PTSD

It is well known that the number of veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder has been steadily increasing over the years.  Is it because the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been going on so long?  Is the combat more difficult and bloody than those we have seen in the past?  Are our soldiers being trained correctly and provided the treatment they need when they come home?  Perhaps all of these play a role in why the numbers have increased, but there may be an even stronger influence.  Recent studies have shown that veterans serving multiple deployments into these combat arenas are much more likely to develop post traumatic stress disorder.  The numbers continue to grow in association with how many tours a person has served in.

According to MSNBC, with the conflict in Afghanistan in its ninth year and the one in Iraq in its eighth, more and more members of the military are being sent into combat zones on numerous occasions.  Moreover, of the roughly two million soldiers who have been deployed overseas, forty percent have served in at least two tours.  And, at least 300,000 soldiers have been involved in three, four, or even more deployments, according to MSNBC and military documents.  These multiple deployments into conflict have led to a surge in post traumatic stress disorder diagnoses.  The soldiers are under a great deal of combat stress, they see fellow service members and civilians getting killed, and they are often separated from their families for long stretches of time.  The more exposure they get to combat and the less time they spend with their families add to the problem.

According to military surveys taken in the field, Army troops in Afghanistan reported a thirty-one percent increase in psychological problems after serving three tours.  In Iraq, the rate for post traumatic stress syndrome was roughly two and a half times as likely for a veteran serving two tours when compared to serving one.  These diagnoses often lead to heavy alcohol abuse, nightmares, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, and violence.  Compounding the problem is the fact that some of these soldiers cannot identify exactly what is wrong and find it difficult to admit there may be something mentally problematic going on.  It is still very difficult for many of these service members to seek and get the help they so desperately need.

One thing all of these veterans agree with is that once you come to terms with the fact that you have post traumatic stress disorder and get counseling, you can learn to live with the disability.  They know that the disorder will never completely go away and they have to learn to recognize the symptoms and make the necessary changes in their lives.  Although many will be unable to work and may have to file for social security disability, they can still be of service to their fellow veterans by sharing their experiences and providing support for others who suffer from the PTSD disability.

Illinois doctor explores the use of local anesthetic (bupivicane) injection to treat PTSD

It seems that we discuss the impact of PTSD on “regular” individuals less than we discuss how PTSD affects veterans.  Additionally, it is not often that the treatment of these ordinary citizens possibly leads to an eventual treatment for our troops (it is usually the other way around).  But anyone can experience an event or series of events that causes them to develop post traumatic stress disorder.  The Chicago Tribune recently published an article detailing how one woman was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder after she was a victim of an armed robbery.  The experience left her battling anxiety and panic attacks, eventually leading her to drop out of school and gain weight despite therapy.  She finally went to Dr. Eugene Lipov with Advanced Pain Centers in Illinois.  He gave her an injection of a local anesthetic, bupivicane, and her disorder improved significantly.  Now, Dr. Lipov is attempting to use this unique treatment option on a broad range of post traumatic stress sufferers, including veterans.

The anesthetic or block is most commonly used in epidurals and as an alterative option for pain management in the arm and face.  Dr. Lipov found that when he used the block to treat women’s hot flashes, he found that they also experienced a psychological upturn as well.  He decided to see if the same mental change could happen with post traumatic stress syndrome sufferers too.  The Tribune also noted than another pain management specialist in Arizona, Dr. Lynch, also used the injection to treat post traumatic stress disorder and he likened its use to using antidepressants.  Dr. Lipov has received FDA approval for using the block to treat post traumatic stress disorder, but he is still waiting on funding from the Department of Defense, which has rejected the procedure in the past.

He knows that he has additional research to conduct and realizes that there is a lot of criticism from the traditional medical community about using the block in this fashion.  Dr. Lipov himself still has questions about how potent the injection should be for each individual depending on their specific post traumatic experience.  He feels so passionately about using the anesthetic that he is conducting his own study of the drug, using his own funds.  In fact, he is offering a free block to any male veteran of the Iraq or Afghanistan conflict as part of the study.

Because the treatment lies outside the conventional medical drug therapy for post traumatic stress disorder, individuals living with the condition may be concerned that engaging in an alternative treatment may hinder their chances at prevailing on a disability claim.  This should not be a problem.  Most traditional treatments today were once considered “alternative” in the medical field.  Simply make sure that the treatment and your response is well documented and that you discuss the procedure in detail with your doctor.  If you want to be a part of the study or want to learn more about the block you can contact Dr. Lipov at 847-608-6620.

Can PTSD sufferers benefit from the medical use of marijuana? Some states differ in their opinion…

Even some states legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes, exactly what constitutes a medical purpose can vary widely from state to state.  Recently, New Mexico legalized medical marijuana use, noting that it could be used to treat symptoms of cancer and other terminal, chronic diseases.  It also extends its use to those who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.  This, however, is considered by many to be a controversial use of the marijuana, and one state that legalized medical marijuana use over ten years ago, Colorado, refuses to allow its use for post traumatic stress disorder.  So, what makes two states that agree on legalizing pot for medical purposes differ so radically on using it for a recognized, debilitating condition like PTSD?

According to the New York Times, in Colorado, where medical marijuana use has been legalized for over a decade, lawmakers continue to debate the merits of its use for post traumatic stress disorder.  In fact, the Colorado legislature recently saw debate and eventual defeat of a proposal that would require the Department of Public Health and Environment to conduct a study into whether cannabis could be used as a treatment for those suffering from the condition.  Some of the reasoning behind the defeat was that there is no medical evidence suggesting that pot can even help those with the disorder.  Interestingly, the only referenced reports indicate that its use may cause addiction and substance abuse in post traumatic stress sufferers.  So, if Colorado’s reasoning is sound, and if there is no evidence showing its effectiveness in treating the disorder, why would New Mexico allow its use?

When the New Mexico advisory board recommended using marijuana as a method to treat post traumatic stress disorder in January 2009, they admitted that there were no studies showing that smoking pot could help the disorder.  However, they did acknowledge that using cannabis can relieve anxiety, which is one of the hallmarks of post traumatic stress disorder, and this is something that is well documented by health professionals, researchers, and scientists.  Since its inception, approximately a quarter of the 1,376 individuals approved for medical marijuana use in New Mexico have post traumatic stress disorder, according to the New York Times.  This is more than the number of patients who use it to combat the effects of cancer or any other approved condition.

Do you think PTSD sufferers can benefit from marijuana use? Why or why not? If the reasoning used by New Mexico lawmakers is sound, and the use of marijuana can indeed quall the effects of anxiety associated with PTSD, then it seems reasonable to allow its use for PTSD sufferers. But if Colorado lawmakers are correct, and marijuana use leads to addiction and the use of other drugs, then I can see why some are hesitant.

In any case, it is very likely that this debate will continue to spring up in states that have legalized medical marijuana use.  I also think that at least some clinical trials are desperately needed to understand whether those with post traumatic stress disorder can truly benefit from smoking pot without battling addiction or abuse later on down the line.

I look forward to following this hot topic and will try to keep this blog updated with further developments on the matter. Feel free to weigh in on the matter by leaving a comment below.

Acupuncture Treatment for PTSD

Although researchers and doctors are continuously trying to develop new and innovative treatment options for people suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, it may be that one of the most effective therapies is a healing art that is centuries old.  A new study, reported by the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, shows that acupuncture has great, beneficial effects on the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder.  The study, led by researchers from the University of Louisville School of Medicine, found that acupuncture provided benefits to the disorder that were similar to those found in cognitive behavioral therapy.  What is more is that the military also seems to readily accept this non-traditional medical intervention method.

Veteran’s Hospitals are recommending the use of acupuncture for physical pain stemming from various injuries, and it is also commonly used in war zones where many of these serious injuries occur.  In fact, Andrews Air force Base in Maryland, which houses the only military acupuncture clinic, trains doctors to practice the healing medicine in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.  The current training program is educating forty-four Army, Air Force, and Navy doctors to use acupuncture practices when engaged in emergency care in combat and war zone medical clinics and hospitals.  Its use in the military is not new to recent conflicts, however.  In 1967, an Army surgeon, observing the practice of acupuncture on the Vietnamese by local physicians during the Vietnam War, wrote an article about its effectiveness.  Now, it appears from this study, the military community may use acupuncture to heal not only the effects of an outward injury, but the internal, mental ones as well.

It is important to discuss any treatment option with your doctor, even one that is non-traditional, like acupuncture.  He/she needs to be aware of any treatment and must keep a record of its effects.  Additionally, it is important to seek a licensed acupuncture specialist and discuss what results you would like to see from the treatment.  Post traumatic stress disorder is such a serious, debilitating condition, that some practitioners may not have the experience to handle the condition.  If you are a military veteran, you may want to see if any of the acupuncture services are offered by military doctors or other health care personnel.  They probably have a good background in mental disorder treatment and will be able to personalize a plan just for your needs.

PTSD Study: Vets who received morphine during trauma care half as likely to develop PTSD

Wouldn’t it be nice to stop a disease or chronic mental disorder before it even began?  That is a difficult task when most diseases and chronic, disabling conditions have no specific cause.  Many studies opine as to various factors that can contribute to a condition, but more often than not, researchers cannot pinpoint why certain people develop a certain disorder.  One of the most currently discussed conditions is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  With more and more soldiers serving multiple tours in combat areas such as Afghanistan and Iraq, the number of those diagnosed with the crippling condition has skyrocketed.  Even the number of people with PTSD who have not served in the armed services has increased.  Most doctors can point to a stressful event or events that triggered the onset of the condition, but after this circumstance occurs there is little that can be done to halt the symptoms. [Read More...]

PTSD research in San Francisco aims to objectively identify PTSD via MRI scans and other testing

A new finding by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco may alter how post traumatic stress disorder is diagnosed and perhaps even treated.  The study, published in the March issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, reveals that there is a particular portion of the brain’s hippocampus, which is related to memory, that is significantly smaller in patients suffering from post traumatic stress disorder than in those who do not suffer from the condition.  Because of the hippocampus’s ability for developing, storing, and recalling memories, it is of utmost importance to the study of post traumatic stress disorder.

The research team examined forty veterans, half of whom suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and half of whom did not suffer from the condition.  The team took images from an MRI scan to evaluate the brain regions and determine if there were any apparent differences between the groups.  They found that a specific portion of the brain, the CA3/dentate gyrus, was eleven percent smaller in the veterans living with post traumatic stress disorder.  Additionally, the researchers noted that another region of the brain, CA1, was not affected at all.  The research team members were surprised that post traumatic stress disorder impacted one part of the brain and not another.

Although it is the first study of its kind and much more research will be needed on the subject, this study’s outcomes are important for a couple of reasons.  First, because the dentate gyrus is responsible for producing neurons, any changes that occur in this region may be reversible by treatment.  Second, this study may suggest that a specific biomarker for post traumatic stress disorder exists.  Most researchers, doctors, and scientists are looking for such a biomarker in the disorder because the only way to currently diagnose the mental disorder is by a subjective examination, rather than by concrete, physical evidence.  Having such an objective physical marker would allow patients to be diagnosed more easily and allow them to get the treatment they need faster.

Further, an absolute, tangible piece of evidence indicating that the disorder PTSD exists will also help those individuals who seek social security benefits because of their condition.  Currently, these people can only submit the testimony and subjective findings of their doctors to the social security administration and administrative law judge in an attempt to gain disability benefits.  With this new finding, it is possible that they could show they have the condition through brain imaging scans, as well as their physician’s testimony.  Despite the need for further testing, it is encouraging to know that there is likely a quantitative means of diagnosing an otherwise unpredictable mental disorder.

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