The Pentagon is turning to alternative medicine to help alleviate the devastating symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder that afflict more than 250,000 military personnel; soothe the brain trauma that’s left thousands more with tremors, speech impediments and memory lapses; and assuage the chronic pain that lingers after grueling, repeat deployments.
The Institute is currently running 67 studies within its military program. And its research is responsible for nearly all of the Pentagon’s alternative health initiatives, including a successful yoga program at Walter Reed and the introduction of acupuncture to the combat zone.
Ironically, soldiers are suffering these new ailments because more of them are making it home. The survival rate of soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan is greater than 93 percent. Compare that to a 76 percent rate in Vietnam, or 69 percent rate in World War II, and it’s clear that military medicine has made impressive strides in keeping wounded soldiers alive.
Military leaders have been vilified for inadequate record-keeping, mismanaged research funds and an over-reliance on brain injury and PTSD tests that often don’t work. “We have failed soldiers,” retired Col. Mary Lopez, who used to manage the Army’s TBI testing, told ProPublica last year. “It is incredibly frustrating because I can see first-hand the soldiers that we’ve missed, the soldiers that have not been treated, not been identified, [or] misdiagnosed.”
Actual medical care is sometimes even worse. For all three conditions — PTSD, chronic pain, and TBI — prescription drugs are the primary mode of treatment. Narcotic painkillers, antipsychotics and sleeping pills have been handed out in record numbers.
But if anything, the drug abuse and addiction borne of that strategy is becoming a medical problem of its own: 73 percent of accidental deaths among military personnel last year were linked to prescription drugs. One such fatality, that of Sgt. Chris Bachus, elicited headlines simply due to the stunning quantity of pill bottles found near Bachus’ body — 27 different ones — after his overdose.
This is quite a long article and you should go read it. Bottom line:
The science and the stories make it clear: Something about alt-medicine is working.
Then keep after it. Whatever it takes.