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Posts Tagged ‘PTSD’

USA Today (4/8, Zoroya) reports that neurologists at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency “are learning how roadside bombs — the most common weapon used against US troops in the field — harm the brain.” Using pigs, they have “discovered a sliding scale of injury ranging from brain cell inflammation to cell damage or cell death, depending on the power of the blast.” According to neurologist Army Col. Geoffrey Ling, “future research…may lead to ways in which battlefield medics can use a combination of helmet sensors and over-the-counter pain reliever to identify and treat mild cases of blast-caused brain injury.” The team “also found that brain damage from an improvised explosive device (IED) can be made worse for those riding inside an armored Humvee, because materials in the vehicle magnify the blast wave effect.” To date, “up to 360,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may have suffered brain injuries, the Pentagon announced last month,” with “many of those injuries” resulting “from IED blasts.”

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 The Chattanooga (TN) Times Free Press (2/26, Gregory) reported, “An increasing number of veterans are surviving combat but not the after-effects — namely post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” The “accompanying addictions or mood disorders” associated with PTSD “create a fatal recipe that veteran advocates say is contributing to a staggering suicide rate among military personnel.” Currently, however, the US Army “is in the middle of a ‘stand-down,’ which requires that individual units devote a day between Feb. 15 and March 15 to suicide prevention training. The stand-down will be followed by 120 days of ‘chain teaching’ across the entire Army.” Veterans Affairs, meanwhile, “is publicizing a service-wide suicide prevention hotline.”

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Bloomberg News (2/16, Waters) reported that, according to a study published in the Feb. 15 advance online issue of Nature Neuroscience, the “widely used heart drug” propranolol “may be able to stop frightening images or experiences from lodging in the memory and repeatedly resurfacing to cause fear and anxiety.” For the study, researchers from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands “gave the medication” to 60 “test subjects in a complex experiment that measured how people reacted when they were shown pictures of spiders they’d been taught to fear.” The team “first conditioned their test subjects to fear a particular kind of spider by showing them pictures of the spider, followed by an electrical shock to the wrist.” By the following day, “the experience had been consolidated and stored in their memory.”
        Participants were then “split into two groups — one was given the beta blocker propranolol and the other a dummy drug before both were shown the same pictures again,” BBC News (2/16) explained on its website. The investigators “assessed how fearful of the pictures the volunteers were by playing sudden noises and measuring how strongly they blinked, something called the ‘startle response.'” The team found that “the group that had taken beta blockers showed less fear than the group that had taken the placebo pill.”
        HealthDay (2/15, Perkel) added that “on the third day,” when the participants “were tested again,” the investigators found that the “physiological response to the fear-inducing cue — pictures of spiders — was eliminated in the propranolol group, but not in the placebo group.” The authors concluded that the study’s findings “are consistent with those of a recent preliminary study of patients with post-traumatic stress disorder in which post-retrieval propranolol seemed to reduce subsequent physiological responding to traumatic memory.” The Boston Globe (2/16) also covered the story.

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The Boston Globe (2/9, Anthes) reports that last year, psychiatrist Robert Salo, M.D., of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, documented “the first known instance of ‘climate change delusion'” in a 17-year-old boy who refused “to drink water” for fear of causing “millions of people” to die. Since then, Dr. Salo has “seen several more patients with psychosis or anxiety disorders focused on climate change.” Already, “there is evidence that extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods, cyclones, and hurricanes, can lead to emotional distress, which can trigger such things as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, in which the body’s fear and arousal system kicks into overdrive.” According to Joshua Miller, Ph.D., of Smith College, “After a disaster, people can feel…like outside forces are taking control of their lives.” He explained that “severe disasters also destroy the infrastructure needed to provide mental healthcare, and forcibly displace people, severing social connections when people need them most.”

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On its front page, the New York Times (1/8, A1, Alvarez, Eckholm) reports that the Department of Defense (DOD) “has decided that it will not award the Purple Heart, the hallowed medal given to those wounded or killed by enemy action, to war veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), because it is not a physical wound.” The decision, which was “made public on Tuesday, for now ends the hope of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans” suffering from PTSD who “believed that the Purple Hearts could honor their sacrifice,” as well as “help remove some of the stigma associated with the condition.” A Department of Defense “advisory group decided against the award because, it said, the condition had not been intentionally caused by enemy action, like a bomb or bullet, and because it remained difficult to diagnose and quantify.”
        In its statement announcing the decision, the DOD said that “the Purple Heart has never been awarded for mental disorders or psychological conditions,” the AP (jan 8th) explains. According to DOD spokeswoman Eileen Lainez, “PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event,” and “not ‘a wound intentionally caused by the enemy from an outside force or agent.'” She added that “veterans diagnosed with PTSD ‘still warrant appropriate medical care and disability compensation,” and the Pentagon “is working hard to encourage service members and their families to seek care for PTSD by reducing the stigma, and urging them to seek professional care.” CNN (1/7, 1:18 p.m. ET) also broadcasted the story

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NBC Nightly News (1/8, story 8, 0:35, Williams) reported that “this week, the Pentagon said no” to the idea of awarding “the Purple Heart…for the mental scars of war.” The Purple Heart “has been given out only to those wounded or killed in action.” Lately, however, “some have argued” that veterans “with post-traumatic combat stress should also qualify.” In their announcement, Defense Department officials “were careful to say” that “they take combat stress seriously, but…said it is not the same as a physical wound.”

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In the Washington Post (12/9, HE2) Checkup column, Rob Stein asked, “Can abortion cause a syndrome similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?” Stein noted that the “question has been the focus of a long, bitter debate.” But, in a new study published in the December issue of the journal Contraception, Robert Blum, of Johns Hopkins University, and colleagues, concluded that “research exploring the issue remains unreliable and politically slanted.” The investigators reached this conclusion after analyzing over 700 articles on the subject.

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