Elizabeth L. (Liz) Abbott has written a biography of her cousin Dr. Maude Abbott, a World War I war injuries pathologist and heart specialist called AN INNER GRACE. Maude’s work helped advance the care of veterans in orthopaedic and plastic surgery. She lost many friends in the war, among them her “Hero of Heroes, Man of Men” Dr. John McCrae, author of In Flanders Fields. Giving up the privilege of wearing a Red Cross ‘non-combatant’ armband, and doing ‘as much soldiering as doctoring,’ McCrae drew attention to the welfare of the common soldier. In Elizabeth’s home town, Ste. Anne de Bellevue, she has heard poignant anecdotes about the “returning soldier” after World War II. She believes that struggles with Post Traumatic Stress and adjusting to civilian life are as difficult today as in those not so long-ago days. The following are her thoughts and comments about coping with PTSD. BONNIE
We love a Veteran who has PTSD. We know that behind that exterior wall of anger, alcohol and odd behaviour is a good soul. To someone who has not slept properly for months or years or is greatly depressed, the idea of a pill to relieve symptoms must be very appealing. But does the Vet know all side effects of the medication he is about to take? Anti-Depressants, if taken with alcohol, may cause a euphoric, even manic state. Combined with alcohol, a drug like Effexor can cause a person to fall asleep at the wheel of their car.
Can he or she make a fully informed and free decision to continue on with a drug to which they have become dependent? Some patients say it can be hellishly hard to withdraw from a Benzodiazepine like Clonazepam.
Users may find that the flattening of emotion that accompanies some medications has taken a toll on family life. Can long term use actually cause brain damage? Some experts say “Yes.”
Do psychiatric meds address Traumatic Brain Injury and its relation to PTSD? The TBI may be clearly visible or may be tiny microscopic hemorrhages caused by blast waves of air from explosions and the firing of large powerful guns. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, or HBOT, may be effective for dealing with TBI, aka Shell Shock. Given that psychiatric medications can entail some serious problems, should not the veteran be accompanied by a friend, advocate, family member to at least one appointment with the psychiatrist? The companion could be advised about unusual symptoms to watch for. He or she could also, with the veteran’s permission and full knowledge, help the psychiatrist understand what the vet’s drinking pattern is like. We all know that many vets like to take a drink. They can hardly be blamed. But programs like AA are unlikely to be very effective if a vet is addicted to a psychiatric med.
Some experts even believe that anti-depressants induce alcohol cravings. How do others feel about this? I would like to know.