The standard treatment for veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been pharmaceuticals and therapy, but in good news for veterans and other sufferers of PTSD, there is a push now to consider other forms of treatments that don’t require a monthly prescription.
Locally, Saving Forgotten Warriors (SFW) and VFW Post 2214 are paying for and arranging stellate ganglion block (SGB) procedures for veterans. Since the program started in January, 2020, 170 local veterans have received the SGB shot. It “resets” the central nervous system, which controls the “fight or flight” instinct. It’s administered into the neck, and, according to the research published in the JAMA Psychiatry, has shown to provide “a significant difference” for sufferers of PTSD.
According to VFW Post Commander Brian Monk, the lives of 15 veterans have been saved locally because of the treatment.
The Veterans Administration has not cleared the treatment to be used on veterans, but there is a bill in Congress that, if passed, would require the VA to offer it as a treatment. So far the bill has not gotten out of committee.
On Friday, state Senator Garlan Gudger and state Rep. Randall Shedd announced a pilot project in their districts. The state allocated $200,000 in the upcoming budget to provide veterans in a nine-county area with SGB treatments. WellStone will be arranging the appointments at a clinic in Birmingham and also collecting data on the effectiveness of the treatment.
Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville is also championing a bill that would allow veterans to try hyperbaric oxygen treatment if traditional treatments have not worked and the veteran is suicidal. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment is used to treat decompression sickness and other conditions, such as wounds and infections that won’t heal. Tuberville’s approach of authorizing this treatment only after other treatments have failed is a prudent one, as more studies on its effectiveness at treating PTSD are needed.
It is important to point out that these are treatments, not cures, and therapy is still recommended for those who suffer from post traumatic stress. There is also nothing wrong with taking prescription medications to help offset the effects of trauma; however, having options other than medications is a good thing for the estimated 8 million Americans who suffer from PTSD.
We commend Sen. Tuberville and our local legislative delegation for pushing for wider treatment options for veterans.