PTSD and Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy -VS- Marijuana
by Dr. Phil Leveque
(MOLALLA, Ore.) – According to almost anyone suffering from PTSD, their pharmaceutical therapists, psychotherapists, psychologists and any of thousands of workers in this field admit if truthful that almost nothing tried thus far has worked.
The first written reference to PTSD was in 1900 B.C. by an Egyptian Army physician who called it "hysterical reaction to trauma."
This was reported nearly 4,000 years later by Veith in 1965. It is probable that it occurred in every war since, and it is also probable that the self-medicating treatment was alcohol, which is still used widely today.
The U.S. Civil War produced "soldiers disease" which was most likely PTSD plus opium addiction, and opiates are still used for PTSD today. The Spanish-American War gave us Cuba Libras (rum & lime juice) and World War I gave us Cognac, lots of French wine and probably lots of opiates.
World War II in addition to booze, gave us barbiturates which work both as tranquilizers and sleeping pills…
The Vietnam War produced innumberable PTSD patients and a wild grab-bag of psychopharmaceuticals, none of which are very effective and most of which cause adverse side effects which patients say are worse than PTSD itself. Most bail out of VA therapy and end up self-medicating with alcohol and what the medical profession calls: drugs of abuse.
Other than alcohol, which is universally available, many Vietnam veterans discovered over there that marijuana worked better than any prescriptions they have been given. Marijuana according to the U.S. government is a very dangerous drug, but many thousands of users deny this.
The newest treatments in view of past failures is Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy in which PTSD patients are subjected to "real or surrogate threat" (battle sounds) "in a safe environment to help them overcome their fears." This is a quote from the summary of the National Academy of Science Institute of Medicine report of Oct. 18th, 2007.
I know of many World War II veterans including myself who saw Private Ryan, Band of Brothers and most recently Ken Burns' The War. The latter is so realistic I was about to dive under the furniture. I can only watch it about an hour at a time.
I was an infantry Battalion Scout and point man and exposed to far more artillery fire, mortar fire and machine gun fire than I care to remember, and I also have had "battle fatigue" or PTSD as do most Infantry battle veterans.
I am extremely dubious about the new "exposure therapy." PTSD like any other disease can be graded from one to ten with ten being totally intolerable and disabling and probably was the "shell shock" of World War I.
Gradual treatments of exposure therapy may help those in the 3 or 4 category but PTSD veterans in the 6, 7 or 8 category will most likely "flip out." I'm pretty damned sure I would. It took me years to endure large fire crackers and truck backfires.
In my career I have successfully treated about 500 veterans with cannabis and they still say it works better than any prescription.
Phil Leveque has spent his life as a Combat Infantryman, Physician, Toxicologist and Pharmacologist.
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