Lawmakers Question Cutting-Edge Drug Therapy for PTSD Veterans

by | Dec 22, 2021 | Injuries

During a recent Congressional hearing, Veterans Administration officials said they were following clinical trials of drugs like MDMA (Molly or Ecstacy) and their usefulness in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms.

A hearing about veteran suicide prevention soon turned to the subject of psychedelic drugs and PTSD. Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX) noted that research in this area had produced some “pretty good results.” The VA’s Lisa Brenner, who directs the Rocky Mountain Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center for Suicide Prevention, said she was aware of the encouraging findings. 

“We are tracking very closely. There are currently some trials underway, and we’re eagerly anticipating the results from those well-designed trials,” she said. “Once we are able to see the results from those well-designed trials, then we will be able to begin to think about what would be next steps in terms of any modifications necessary or what next steps within VA would be, but along with you we will continue to watch closely,” she added.

Doctors who published a recent Nature Medicine study called MDMA therapy a “potential breakthrough.” Scientists are also studying the effects of other psychedelic drugs, like marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms.

PTSD: A Closer Look

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is one of the most misunderstood brain injuries. In fact, many people, even many doctors, do not even consider this condition to be an “injury,” despite massive evidence to the contrary. Additionally, PTSD is not just limited to military veterans. More on that below.

Extreme stress, such as combat stress, upsets the delicate chemical balance in the brain. Stress causes the amygdala to enlarge and the cerebral cortex to shrink. What does all that mean? We’re glad you asked.

The amygdala controls emotional responses, including the “flight or fight” instinct, and the cerebral cortex controls emotional responses.

We see this interaction in everyday life. If I see a box of donuts at a morning meeting, the amygdala tells me to eat as many as I want, to satisfy my own cravings. The cerebral cortex tells me not to eat any, because they are not healthy. So, I compromise and eat one. Or maybe two or three. But if my amygdala is too large, my impulse would overrule the logical response, and I might eat the whole box.

That’s a very mild example. PTSD is much more extreme and the effects are much worse than eating too many breakfast pastries. The amygdala/cerebral cortex imbalance explains symptoms like:

  • Nightmares,
  • Depression,
  • Loss of interest,
  • Anger, and
  • Hypervigilance.

PTSD victims simply cannot react logically to a box of donuts on a table, being cut off in traffic, seeing upsetting footage on TV, and a host of other events. The resulting symptoms make it difficult or impossible to function in everyday situations.

Car Crash PTSD

Combat stress is not the only cause of PTSD among veterans. Military Sexual Trauma (MST) also causes PTSD, whether the person witnessed an event or was an MST victim. Among non-veterans, car wrecks are the leading cause of PTSD. Over half of car crash survivors experience Posty TRaumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms. The extreme stress alters their brain chemistry.

Carefully controlled drug therapy has shown some promise, but widespread use is probably still years away. Unfortunately, many PTSD victims self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. These approaches might provide some short-term relief. But over the long haul, users get addicted to these substances. Then, instead of simply PTSD, they have an additional serious health problem to deal with.

Even if it’s successful among veterans, there’s no guarantee that drug therapy will help car crash PTSD victims. There are some subtle differences between these two injuries, although the underlying chemical imbalance issue is identical.

So, most car crash PTSD victims must go through extensive therapy, usually for the rest of their lives, since a brain injury like PTSD is usually permanent.

Brain injury physical therapy for car crash victims is nothing like broken bone or other such physical therapy. Usually, PT progress is a slow and steady climb. Every day is a little better than the day before. But brain injury physical therapy is different. Progress happens in fits and starts. 

Frequently, insurance companies use any progress plateau as an excuse to try and cut off funding. So, a Lexington personal injury attorney must advocate for victims in these situations and keep the money flowing. The next breakthrough could very well happen in the next session.

In addition to compensation for medical bills and other economic losses, most PTSD victims are entitled to compensation for their noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Most personal injury claims settle out of court. So, victims get their compensation sooner and they have more control over the outcome.

Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act. #goodelawyers