Linda A. Smith
Combat veterans and active duty service members who have suffered mild to severe traumatic brain injury or head trauma are at a higher risk for the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder post-deployment. Research has revealed that treating the soldier immediately after the injury with pharmacotherapeutic agents significantly reduces the risk that the soldier will develop post-traumatic stress disorder at a later date. Determining effective ways to treat combat veterans and assist them in surviving episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder through therapy and medication has become a top priority for the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration.
Keywords: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), pharmacotherapeutic agents, combat veterans, active-duty service members, therapy, mild traumatic brain injury, severe traumatic brain injury, head trauma.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – Treating our Heroes
“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an important and well-documented mental health outcome among seriously injured civilian and military survivors of trauma” (Holbrook, 2010) The awareness of this disorder was first recognized as a true psychological disorder in 1980 when it appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, due to the large amount of Vietnam veterans presenting symptoms related to their military service. This disorder is thought to have first been experienced in Vietnam, but “Incidents of post-traumatic stress disorder have been documented as far back as ancient Greece.” (Melchior, 2011) As we enter the twelfth year of combat operations in the Middle East, the incidents of violence surrounding returning Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) veterans is increasing. There has been a dramatic rise in suicides and homicides perpetrated by combat veterans who have suffered some type of traumatic brain injury or head trauma while serving. Recently, our country lost an American hero, retired Navy Seal Christopher Kyle. He was shot and killed by a Marine veteran who had just been released from a Veterans Administration hospital and had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. (Fernandez, 2013) In June, 2010, “the U.S. Army report 32 veterans committed suicide” “with 10 of the 21 active duty veterans deployed to Middle East conflict two to four times.” (Lee, 2012, p. 180) While there may also be underlying reasons why a returning combat veteran may choose to end his life or commit homicide, research is revealing the link between combat injuries and the development of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Post-deployment issues related to post-traumatic stress disorder
Some of the main comorbid conditions which develop post-deployment in combat veterans who have experienced trauma while deployed include increased use in alcohol to the extent of abuse, increase risk of suicide and the development of other long-term health issues.
In a study published in Military Medicine, the researcher discovered that 78% of returning active-duty personal consumed alcohol with 19.87% stating it was heavy alcohol use. The researcher also found that 47.96% of the veterans interviewed stated that in the last 30 days, they had at least one heavy episodic drinking episode and 14.43% had drank and driven a vehicle. The percentages were slightly lower in reserve personnel. (Brown, 2012, p. 1187) Verbal and physical aggression along with impulsiveness to participate in risky behavior and drug use also showed a marked increase among the participants. (Brown, 2012, p. 1188)
Suicides have also increased in combat veterans and the method of choice seems to revolve around a more violent nature. “The two most common methods of recent suicide in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) veterans (n=490,346) were firearms...