We may be hurting, perhaps indirectly killing, our own troops sent to serve and protect our nation. Suicide rates in the Army is up 80% in four years. The fact that most soldiers are being prescribed powerful medications without anyone ever looking at their brain is not good.
I gasped when reading the Los Angeles Times recent article, "A medicated military faces side effects," also noticing suicide rates in the Army is up 80% in four years. I'm a double board certified, military trained psychiatrist, and what they are doing does not make logical sense. Most soldiers are being prescribed powerful medications without anyone ever looking at their brain.
At the Amen Clinics we have performed more than 72,000 brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) studies and have treated thousands of patients, including military personnel. It is critical to look at how the brain works before going about changing it. Psychiatry is the only medical specialty that rarely looks at the organ it treats, which is why success rates are really no better than they were in the 1950s. We are doing our troops a disservice by prescribing medications without examining the organ responsible.
Noticing the suicide rates coincide with the increase in prescription medication leads me to suggest we may be hurting, perhaps indirectly killing, our own troops sent to serve and protect our nation.
Sometimes, medications are necessary. However, in my 30-year career, I've seen high levels of success when we combine clinical evaluations with SPECT directed treatment for a wide variety of disorders including traumatic brain injury (TBI), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, ADD/ADHD, obesity, addictions, anxiety, loss of memory, mood and other behavior problems.
I write with personal experience, having served in the U.S. Army as a Combat Field Medic and later as an Army physician. Troops fighting in the field are faced with enormous stress, unlike most people can even imagine. Nothing can prepare someone for the bloody horrors, memories, sights, sounds that can haunt individuals for years. Concussions resulting from hits to the head, nearby bomb blasts, or inside vehicles hit by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), can compound the problem.
Take Captain Patrick Caffrey. One of his tasks in the Second Battalion, Seventh Marines Combat Engineer Platoon was to conduct route clearance -- the intense mission of identifying and clearing mines and IEDs from the road. He came home from Afghanistan reporting a distinct change to his personality. Prone to angry outbursts, he was irritable, had intense headaches, trouble focusing, concentrating, and with his memory. He was not able to sleep soundly. He said "I was rude and nasty to people and the worst part was that I didn't really know just how much I had changed." Captain Caffrey found his way to Amen Clinics where we scanned his brain, conducted other testing, and learned he had sustained three blasts from the inside of an armored vehicle. From the scans, we saw damage to his executive and memory centers, which explained his behavioral and cognitive changes, headaches and decrease in ability to focus and concentrate, and memory issues.
With a combination of TBI and PTSD, we put Caffrey on a customized natural, whole foods diet and a brain-directed supplement plan. He said, "I felt a dramatic difference right away. I felt more mentally sharp and focused than ever!" Today, Caffrey reports continued improvement and has a new job with a Fortune 200 company.
Even more exciting, Caffrey started Brain Scans for Warriors, a non-profit raising money to help our military get proper treatment. Rather than masking the problem with, perhaps ill-advised medications, we should take time to help our troops get thoroughly examined and start with natural treatments.