A bag filled with violence inducing psychotropic drugs are not the answer for treating our returning veterans, especially since for every US soldier killed this year, 25 veterans commit suicide.The US military has lost more troops to suicide than to combat for the second year in a row and a better cause versus symptom based understanding of combat-related risk factors for suicide is now critical. Dr Allen L Roland
A new SFVA study strongly suggests that soldiers who experience killing experiences are twice as likely to attempt suicide ~ which strongly supports the reality of soul damage as a contributing factor for veteran’s suicide as well as the obvious need for a proven heart centered approach toward veteran rehabilitation.
An American soldier dies every day and a half, on average, in Iraq or Afghanistan while Veterans kill themselves at the rate of one every 80 minutes. More than 6,500 veteran suicides are logged every year ~ more than the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined since those wars and occupations began.
Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times rightfully calls it “The Nations Shame“ See article ~
Last year, General Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s No. 2 officer, acknowledged there are more effective ways to treat PTSD than just drugs ~ a fact that I have been proving for over two years with our heart centered Healing The Wounded Heart workshops for combat veterans with PTSD in Northern California.
Last year, Megan Sully, The national Journal, interviewed Gen. Peter Chiarelli , the Army’s No. 2 officer, who has long been an advocate for soldiers suffering from the invisible wounds of war ~ such as PTSD and TBI. Here are some pertinent excerpts of General Chiarelli’s important interview with the National Journal (NJ);
NJ: Statistics show that more members of the military kill themselves than die in combat. Has the Army made progress in this area?
CHIARELLI: “I definitely think that we have made progress, but we’re fighting an uphill battle. The underlying causes, the stress on the force, the things that are causing the stress on the force, still remain when you have operational-tempo levels that are at what they are right now, especially after 10 years of conflict.”
NJ: The Army has long had a stigma about mental health.
CHIARELLI: “Not the Army, not the military. It’s everybody. I believe that the stigma associated with behavioral health issues is something that is shared by the general public. We’re just admitting it. And what the Army’s trying to do internal to itself is to change that culture. We have a lot of folks who are very focused on the mission who don’t want to let their buddies down. Sometimes that gets in the way of seeking the help that they want and need.”
NJ: You have expressed concern about the level of research into post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. What worries you?
CHIARELLI: “We do not know how to treat post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury with the same kind of assurance that we know how to treat what I call the mechanical injuries of this war. The science is just not there. There is a lot of wonderful, very important research going on. The problem is if you’re an operator like me who likes to fix things quickly. It takes a long time.”
NJ: Is the military’s medical culture changing to address these problems?
CHIARELLI: “There’s no doubt that we’ve changed. We’ve totally done a 180. But have we done enough? No. I want to do more, quicker. I want to have more of these secrets unlocked faster. I want to understand what drugs we should use to treat these symptoms, if we should use any drugs at all. I want to look into alternative pain management. We are finding there are other ways to handle pain that are more effective and allow a person to feel a lot better than throwing a bagful of drugs at them.”
In 2007, the US Department of Defense issued $3 billion in contracts for bulk pharmaceutical purchases, many of which are option periods from an original award and that number is significantly higher now ~ we’re talking big money here!
Here’s one of those drugs in that bag. After the recent massacre of 16 Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier, as well as scores of military and veteran suicides and homicides, more light is being shed on the military’s zombie potion, Mefloquine (Lariam).
Mefloquine is an anti-malaria drug, invented by the military that has been known for sometime to have severe psychiatric side effects including psychotic behavior, paranoia and hallucinations. The drug has been implicated in numerous suicides and homicides, including deaths in the U.S. military as well as Peace Corps. With so many other anti-malarial medications available, one has to wonder why the military continues to distribute Mefloquine (Lariam) at all.
A must see 13 minute Video: Democracy Now
So let’s take a closer look at the bagful of drugs (Care of big Pharma) that are currently being thrown at Veterans as well as their adverse effects.
A recent study published in the Public Library of Science online journal (PloS One @ www.plosone.org) by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP @ www.ismp.org) listed the top 31 prescription drugs that can cause violent or aggressive behavior in those consuming them. Note that Prozac, Paxil and the amphetamine drugs as well as Lariam are # 2, # 3 # 4 and #5 on the top-ten list:
10. Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) ~ Pfizer’s newest antidepressant (a knock-off of Effexor, note the similarity of the generic terms) that artificially stimulates both serotonin and noradrenaline. The drug is 7.9 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs.
9. Venlafaxine (Effexor) ~ An antidepressant that has marketing approval for both depression and anxiety. The drug is 8.3 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs.
8. Fluvoxamine (Luvox) – A so-called “selective” serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) A drug that is 8.4 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs.
7. Triazolam (Halcion) – A benzodiazepine (a so-called “minor” but highly addictive tranquilizer) drug for insomnia that is 8.7 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs.
6. Atomoxetine (Strattera) – A psychostimulant drug that is 9 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs.
5. Mefoquine (Lariam) – An anti-malaria drug that is 9.5 times more likely to be associated with violence (including homicide and suicide) than other drugs.
4. Amphetamines – This general class of dangerous and highly addictive psychostimulant drugs is 9.6 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs.
3. Paroxetine (Paxil) – An SSRI antidepressant, (with psychostimulating, mania-inducing effects) that is 10.3 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs. It is also linked to severe withdrawal symptoms and birth defects.
2. Fluoxetine (Prozac) – A popular SSRI antidepressant drug that is 10.9 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs.
1. Varenicline (Chantix) – A dopaminergic anti-smoking drug that is a shocking 18 times more likely to be associated with violence than other drugs.
The original article is here.
Are their lingering psychological or psychosocial effects on combat veterans with killing experiences in combat ~ particularly as relating to suicide?
In an important recent April 13, 2012 research study abstract entitled ~ KILLING IN COMBAT MAY BE INDEPENDENTLY ASSOCIATED WITH SUICIDAL IDEATION ~ the SFVA released the following abstract:
The United States military has lost more troops to suicide than to combat for the second year in a row and better understanding combat-related risk factors for suicide is critical. We examined the association of killing and suicide among war veterans after accounting for PTSD, depression, and substance use disorders.
We utilized a cross-sectional, retrospective, nationally representative sample of Vietnam veterans from the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). In order to perform a more in depth analysis, we utilized a subsample of these data, the NVVRS Clinical Interview Sample (CIS), which is representative of 1.3 million veterans who were eligible for the clinical interview by virtue of living in proximity to an interview site, located within 28 standard metropolitan regions throughout the United States.
Veterans who had higher killing experiences had twice the odds of suicidal ideation, compared to those with lower or no killing experiences, and substance use disorders were each associated with higher odds of suicidal ideation. Endorsement of suicide attempts was most strongly associated with PTSD.
Killing experiences are not routinely examined when assessing suicide risk. Our findings have important implications for conducting suicide risk assessments in veterans of war. See Report:
These findings offer even more justification for our heart centered workshops for combat veterans as well as other heart centered therapy. We’re talking about soul damage here and only a heart centered intervention can effectively treat that psychic despondency ~ as I have consistently demonstrated with combat veterans who have virtually all participated in killing experiences.
And therein lies my point ~ there are most definitely other effective and proven ways to handle PTSD other than throwing a bagful of drugs at them and one of them is the heart centered Healing The Wounded Heart workshops we are facilitating with Veterans with PTSD in Northern California.
I have long felt and have now proved that PTSD is really Post Traumatic Heart Disorder for a common symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the inability to give or receive love ~ which can obviously apply to non veterans who have also suffered significant loss or emotional childhood and/or adult pain.
I have clearly demonstrated that only after the heart is touched can true self healing occur for only then does the client (veterans or otherwise) truly want to heal. Using the premise that what is deepest within us is love (not anger) and utilizing an action oriented approach to face and go through their heart felt fears ~ these veterans, soon discover that beneath their pain, anger and shame is not only love and joy but most importantly their true authentic self.
The purpose then of the Healing the Wounded Heart Workshops is to penetrate the grey zone of guilt, aloneness and unworthiness, that many combat War Veterans diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) experience, and this is done within a supportive group setting through heart centered self exploration, group sharing, guided visualization and action oriented homework ~ where love and joy eventually overcome fear and separation.
I call each one of these 8 week (once a week) workshops The Band of Brothers and nine of them have already been completed since early 2010 and Band of Brothers #10 will commence in early May 2012.
Using Band of Brothers #5 as an example ~ 21 PTSD symptoms were included on the evaluation survey and the veterans were asked to rate their level on the 1-10 scale ( with 1 being “ Very Poor “ and 10 being “ No Problem” for each of the PTSD conditions Before and After the workshop. Here are the after workshop results ~ with an average symptom improvement of 59%.
Symptoms / After workshop % Improvements
Sleep Problem 67%
Trouble breathing 15%
Emotional Numbing 74%
Suicidal Ideations 41%
Intrusive Memories 58%
Super alert issues 58%
Concentration issues 55%
Feeling Joy 75%
Fear of intimacy 63%
Physical pain 36%
Emotional pain 65%
The figures speak for themselves but the one that leap out at me is the 75% improvement in Joy and gratitude. These combat veterans have not only survived the ultimate firefight of battling fear on the journey to their heart but are now experiencing the delight of not only being themselves but the joy and gratitude that they are truly healing themselves and can finally begin to give and receive love.
Here are two participants comments from their workshop evaluation; “I have progressed farther in the workshop’s 8 weeks than I have in 25 years of on-and off private therapy. I’ve been given a very informative look at myself. I understand much more about my own experiences. So many answers to so many questions. I feel alive! Gaining a different perspective on life helps me to see my true self. It’s nice to feel love and a sense of self-worth”
“My quick temper and bouts with anger are gone. My dreams are no longer violent and I have not flown out of bed since the workshop. I am able to fall asleep and remain asleep. My relationships with my wife and family have improved immensely. The comradeship that grew with the other participants was wonderful. I feel very strongly that the “ Healing The wounded Heart “ workshop should be added to the VA’s inventory of most effective tools used in re-adjustment counseling to combat the life destroying effects of PTSD.” See report:
There can be no more excuses for the VA to not fund a heart centered approach to working with Veterans with PTSD which is now being privately funded by the California Veterans Support foundation, legion Posts such as Jack London Post 489 in Sonoma, California and local Vietnam support groups like VVA Chapter 702 in Napa, California.
If combat veterans are responding positively to these once a week eight week action oriented heart centered workshops ~ it’s time for the VA to open the door to alternative healing methodologies which the rest of the country are already acknowledging, supporting and experiencing.
Sal Ueda, LSW, an Adjustment counselor at the Concord Vet Center commented on General Chiarelli’s article and the need for a heart centered approach ~ “Unless we finally realize that true peace is never solved by War and stop continuing to use young men to help resolve world differences, we will continue the consequences of the “rude awakening” of wars, with its wounding of the soul. Through the Healing of the Wounded Heart Workshops we are witnessing war veterans go through transformations in reconnecting with their true self (spirituality) and reclaiming inner compassion, Love and Peace. I express my gratefulness to you General Chiarelli for questioning our state of mental health affair and advocacy. I have great faith in our human capacity to heal, and the availability of complimentary heart centered modalities out-side current mainstream treatment boxes that assist the healing process. The system needs to look at these modalities seriously, incorporate or fund them, and make them readily accessible.”
Four star general Peter Chiarelli should be given a fifth star for finally publicly acknowledging that there are more effective ways of dealing with our emotionally wounded veterans than just throwing a bagful of drugs at them ~ and hopefully shift veteran’s treatment focus from just symptom management and coping toward the real impact of trauma experiences on the human soul – the detachment or quite often further disconnection from one’s inner spirituality, well being and above all capacity to give and receive love.
Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them for it alone takes them and joins them to what is deepest within themselves ~ Teilhard de Chardin
About the Author: Allen L Roland is a Freelance Alternative Press Online columnist. He is also a practicing psychotherapist, author and lecturer who also shares a daily political and social commentary on his web site at AllenRoland.com. He also guest hosts a Truthtalk, a national radio show that airs monthly. He is available for comments, interviews, speaking engagements and private consultations via email at [email protected].