Guest Author - Jeff Valentine
Veterans On Drugs -
I've had contact with more than a few OIF/OEF Veterans lately. Some are ready to go back, some are having adjustment problems and beyond, and others are G2G or "good to go" and having no problems whatsoever. If I ran the numbers, these folks and their situations probably mirror the numbers reported in the news.
Of those Veterans having adjustment "problems", they basically fall into two groups. Those that are "coming down" from the impact of existing in an environment where death is close at hand, and those that need extra help for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
Often, the extra help that these Veterans are getting comes in the form of drugs. We're not talking about the illegal, illicit stuff. These drugs are prescribed by mental health professionals.
One Vet I talked to calls what he takes the "PTSD Cocktail". Three or more drugs (depending on the situation) for anti-anxiety, anti-depression, and others. Without the drugs, he's jumpy, constantly stressed out, has flashbacks, can't be in public situations. In short, he functions in normal everyday America as if he's in a war zone.
On this flip side, his PTSD Cocktail turns him into a zombie. He can't drive, he can't work, he can't operate "heavy machinery" all while the issues outlined above are alleviated. He can't tell me which is the lesser of two evils.
Another Vet laughed when I asked about his situation. He let me know that he was taking some anti-depressants for some "day-mares" (that's nightmares during the daytime, while awake). I asked whether he volunteered to get help or if it was command directed. He pointed at his wife. It was, indeed, command directed by her.
His wife said that the drugs have helped, but she thinks "they" need to increase the dosage. I asked this Vet how his command treated him after asking for help. He responded that his command is supportive and then laughed. At drill each month, his whole platoon wakes up and pops their pills all at the same time. Very interesting indeed.
On one hand we have veterans (who are now civilians), getting help for their PTSD, but who are still not necessarily "viable" members of society. On the other hand we have Veterans (those still serving) who require the same help for the same problems.
But at what cost?
What is the ultimate cost of choosing between the two "evils" of possible PTSD meltdown vs. being a drug cocktail zombie? Yes, these are extreme examples, but do we even know? What are the long term effects?
Smart, professional people are working on these issues for our Veterans everyday.