Thursday, July 23, 2009
SENATE ADOPTS AMENDMENT TO DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION MANDATING THE STUDY OF ANTI-DEPRESSANT DRUG USE, RISING SUICIDE RATE AMONG COMBAT TROOPS
Post subject: Our troops and anti-depressants
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bhudgins - July 22, 2009 - 07:36 PM
Post subject: Our troops and anti-depressants
SENATE ADOPTS AMENDMENT TO DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION MANDATING THE STUDY OF ANTI-DEPRESSANT DRUG USE, RISING SUICIDE RATE AMONG COMBAT TROOPS
“We need to know how these prescription drugs are being used and if they are being used properly.”
Washington, DC – The U.S. Senate today, by voice vote, adopted an amendment (#1475) to the National Defense Authorization Act authored by U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) that would mandate a study of the increased use of antidepressants among our combat troops and what impact these drugs may be having on the mental health of our troops. All information collected by the study would be at a macro level and would in no way jeopardize the privacy of any individual’s health care or health information. Senator Cardin offered the amendment in response to the alarming increase in suicides and attempted suicides among active military.
“I am deeply troubled by the deteriorating mental health of so many of our combat troops. Multiple deployments, extended separations from family and loved ones, the overwhelming stress of combat experiences, and other factors, each have placed a unique and tremendous strain on the men and women of our all-volunteer force,” said Senator Cardin.
“While Congress has recognized the strains of prolonged war, and acted to help provide relief by increasing the size of our forces and thereby reducing the number and frequency of deployments, we cannot as easily remedy the stress or mental trauma created by combat experience. This apparently has led to a potentially harmful practice of the Department of Defense (DOD) administering antidepressants to a population that frequently moves throughout a theatre of war and is therefore susceptible to gaps in mental health management.
“It is imperative that we determine if DOD is prescribing anti-depressants to its service members appropriately, including the necessary observation by a highly trained mental health provider. My concern is not the long-term efficacy of these drugs, but the sheer volume and manner in which these drugs are being administered to our service men and women overseas.
“The men and women serving in our military – and equally so, their families – deserve our utmost assurance that we are doing everything in our power to see that our Nation’s war fighters are provided the best medical care available. An integral part of our commitment, therefore, must also be to ensure that these same men and women, volunteering to serve our Nation, are not being exposed to what may potentially endanger them when they seek the medical care and mental help they need.”
A 2007 report by the Army’s Fifth Mental Health Advisory Team indicated that, according to an anonymous survey of U.S. troops, about 12 % of combat troops in Iraq, and 17 % of combat troops in Afghanistan, are taking prescription antidepressants – mainly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – or sleeping pills to help them cope with this stress. This equates to roughly 20,000 troops on such medications in theatre right now. Many of these same antidepressants, after strong urging by the FDA, recently expanded their warning labels to state that young adults - ages 18-24 years old - may be at an elevated risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior while using the medication. This same age group – 18-24 years old - represents 41% of our military forces serving on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly 40% of Army suicide victims in 2006 and 2007 are believed to have taken some type of antidepressant drugs – and overwhelmingly these SSRIs.
Among other provisions, Senator Cardin’s amendment directs the Department of Defense to capture - at a macro level and without divulging or violating any protected patient health information - the volume and types of antidepressants, psychotropics or anti-anxiety drugs being prescribed to our men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will also require DoD, beginning in June of 2010 and then annually thereafter through 2015, to report to Congress an accurate percentage of those troops, currently or previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2005, that have been prescribed these types of drugs.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Some of you may have received this in a different format, but I ask that you read it all the way through, at the end I have added my own personal message.
One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books, and I thought to myself, 'Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.' I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.
As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. When he looked up I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes
My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, 'Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.' He looked at me and said, 'Hey thanks!' There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.
I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before this!
We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends, and he said yes.
We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him. Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again.
I stopped him and said, 'Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!' He just laughed and handed me half the books.
Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor and I was going for business on a football scholarship.
Kyle was valedictorian of our class, and he had to prepare a speech for graduation. I teased him all the time about being a nerd, but I was so glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak! Graduation day, when I saw Kyle he looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than I had and all the girls loved him.
Boy, sometimes I was jealous! Today was one of those days. But I could see that he was nervous about his speech so I smacked him on the back and said, 'Hey, big guy, you'll be great!'
He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. 'Thanks,’ he said.
As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began 'Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach...but mostly your friends.... I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them.
I am going to tell you a story.
I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told of the first day we met.
He had planned to kill himself over the weekend.
He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn't have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile.
'Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.' I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his Mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile.
Not until that moment did I realize it's depth.
Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person's life when they are in the most troubled time of their life.
Action can make their life better; doing nothing can make it worse.
God puts us all in each other’s lives to impact one another in some way.
As I read this message, I got tears in my eyes because I thought of Patrick. I thought how each and every one of you reading this message right now with one small gesture can change his life.
Maybe some of you are thinking “I’ll donate to Pat’s legal fund soon.” Maybe some of you have no intentions of donating at all. Maybe some of you say “I just can’t afford to donate.” You can’t afford to help save someone’s life?
Never underestimate the power of your actions.
I will continue to beg and plead for donations because you see, I am trying to save my husband’s life as much as the boy in the story’s life was saved.
I know that the only way this can happen is by the people reading this understanding the power of their actions.
And now I ask two things of each of you reading this message:
1) Please, donate to Patrick’s legal defense fund. Never underestimate the power of your actions.
2) Please, send an e-mail to everyone in your contact list and tell them about this blog site and tell them about the importance of saving someone’s life.
The address is jpldefense.blogspot.com
On August 11th, Pat will appear in court to enter his plea. That day, the trial date will be set. I cannot stress to each of you enough the importance of donating to Pat. As of August 11th we will need to be able to know how we are going to cover the expenses for the expert witnesses and character witnesses necessary to save Pat’s life. Remember in order for him to have a defense team to fight for his life, we need at least $20,000. The legal defense fund balance is $1,980.00.
I am standing by my husband, and I ask that you all do the same.
I have done extensive research on all of the medications that Pat has taken. When I consider the mind altering effects of these medications, and couple that with the information concerning the physical damage that appears to occur in the brain due to PTSD – no wonder Patrick is where he is.
I want to get him out of where he is and get him into this study that is being done at the VA in San Francisco.
In July 2008 San Francisco physicist Norbert Schuff presented captivating information during a conference attended by leading neurologists from the area. This conference took place at San Franciso’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Schuff displayed colorful images of the brains of U.S. soldiers who had served in combat and who were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Additionally, there were images of the brains of soldiers who had not been diagnosed with PTSD. Schuff contends that the differences in images in these two groups is a marker that PTSD has a physical effect on the brain. He cautioned that this research is in infancy stages, but contends that one day specialists will be able to look at a computer screen and see PTSD as clearly as they now see a brain tumor!
While reviewing the images Schuff, outlined the areas of the brain possibly affected by PTSD. The yellow areas of the images represented where the hippocampus, which plays major roles in short-term memory and emotions, had atrophied. (Atrophy is wasting away of muscle, tissue or mass). The red areas of the scans marked hyperfusion - increased blood flow - in the prefrontal cortex, the region responsible for conflict resolution and decision-making.
A comparison of the scans to a soldier’s scans without PTSD revealed the PTSD brain had lost 5 to 10 percent of its gray matter volume.
Without proper treatment, clinicians say patients with PTSD are more likely to engage in anti-social behaviors. The disorder, neurologists are now learning, can also lead to long-term maladies, such as Alzheimer's and dementia. That was recently reported in USA Today on July 13.
This study is part of the Defense Department’s $78 million investment in San Francisco's Northern California Institute for Research and Education at the VA center over the past four years, making it the largest VA research institute in the country and the only one that specializes in neuroscience.
The search for these PTSD biological markers through brain imagining is the primary concern of five research centers in the country, including teams at Harvard and Emory universities. Researchers believe that once the markers are defined, successful treatments can be developed. (1)
There are other PTSD related researches on-going at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. One being conducted by Dr. Lynn Pulliam is trying to establish a blood profile to diagnose PTSD. Using gene array technology, researchers will be able to take an RNA test, much like a DNA test, to determine whether a patient "tests positive" for PTSD. (1)Dr. Pulliam’s research coincides with information released on July 20, 2009 by Allostatix, a wellness company based in Cincinnati, Ohio. (2)
The company is trying to broker a deal with the Department of Defense based on the idea that its blood test can act as an early warning system to predict which soldiers will struggle most with PTSD.
The blood test measures “allostatic load”. I had to go look that one up. Complicated, but the concept is that the body’s stress response can accelerate disease and affect organs.
Four conditions that lead to allostatic load are:
- Repeated frequency of stress responses to multiple novel stressors;
- Failure to habituate to repeated stressors of the same kind;
- Failure to turn off each stress response in a timely manner due to delayed shut down; and
- Inadequate response that leads to compensatory hyperactivity of other mediators.
(I got that from Wikipedia)
Allostatix’s test measures the damage and predicts (as far as five years out with 85 percent accuracy, according to the company) where a person’s health is heading.
Allostatix hopes to test 10,000 members of the military and about 5,000 spouses, and follow them for about two years, said Dr. Robert Ludke, a partner in Allostatix and a senior researcher at the Center for the Study of Health at the University of Cincinnati. Participants would be tested before and after deployment.
Allostatix President Gordon Horwitz said if there is a connection between PTSD and allostatic load, the tests could help contribute to battle-readiness reports and provide help earlier to soldiers more likely to have problems. (2)
So perhaps modern technology will help alleviate the pain and agony our military members and their families go through during the battle after the war.
I just wish this all could have happened soon enough for Patrick.
1) San Francisco Chronicle; Justin Berton, July 27, 2008
2) Mid City News; Chris Seper, July 20, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
She was extremely upset by what happened in September. But what is important is that she is even more upset with how Pat has been treated. She lives here in Pahrump – and it’s nice to know that there are people here who care about Pat and what is happening to him. She said she is going to do what she can to help. I hope that she will be able to do something for Patrick.
Her name is Patricia Grubbs, and she wrote a book "Life Through His Eyes". It is her story of living with PTSD - for 33 years. Her husband is a Viet Nam Veteran. (Thank you for your service to our country, David.)
It is a short book, less than 70 pages. But from Chapter 4 forward, there was so much of it that could have been written by me. Of course the "story" is not the same, but some of the incidents I have lived through are so similar to what she has lived. (Note, none are as serious as this is with Pat.)
However, she knows what I have been living since Pat returned from Iraq. It is nice to know that someone knows and understands that it is not only the Veteran who suffers with PTSD, but also the family.
When I finished reading the book, I had tears streaming down my face.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
For 303 days Pat has not seen the sun come up or set. He has not seen the moon or the stars. He has not smelled the fresh air after a nice shower. He has not slept in the comfort of his own bed. He has not enjoyed his favorite foods.
One cannot punish the unintentional wrongdoing of another ~ without intentionally committing a wrongdoing himself.
What is happening to Pat Lamoureux is a grave wrongdoing. At the time this incident occurred, there should have been a different course of action that immediately occurred.
The VA should have been deeply involved and instead of being detained in a county jail for 303 days, Pat should have been receiving treatment for 303 days.
But the VA actually failed Pat in July last year. If his mental health provider had talked to me that day, instead of making me wait in the lobby because there were students visiting that day - this incident would never have happened. It is interesting to read how she documented that visit. Instead of seeing the red flag in her face, she told him to go home and take his medication - you know, that one that causes amnesia.
I wonder how many times in the last 303 days she has looked at Pat's records, especially that visit, and realized that she failed in her responsibilities as his mental health provider.
And before some "anonymous" person attacks me for not doing something - all I can say is:
1) You don't live with someone who has combat related PTSD.
2) You do not understand the mindset of that person.
3) Me telling Pat I thought he needed to go for in-patient treatment would not have been well received.
Those recommendations needed to come from the professional who was responsible for his mental well being, and who should have understood what he told her that day.
I know, people will say – well then you should have done more if you felt what happened at that visit was wrong. It is certainly easy for me to sit here and agree with you now. But you have to understand that I had become too accepting of “this is the way life is going to be from now on”. You don’t understand what living with PTSD does to your own mind.
When his provider did not seem to find the information alarming at the time, I thought to myself, “I am obviously over-reacting. I mean after all, she is the trained professional. So what I thought was bad – must not have been that bad……accept it Sue, that’s the way life is now.”
For 303 days Pat has been left all alone to sort this all out. Can you even begin to imagine the hell he has been living in for the past 303 days?
When he has needed help the most, he has received none.
This is how we say thank you for your service to our country Pat Lamoureux....
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