What they won’t tell you about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Everybody serving in Iraq, or who has served in any other combat area, knows that harassing and tormenting soldiers who are overcome by the horrors of war is absolutely routine. Accusations of cowardice are customary. Threats of punishment are unleashed. Appeals to stay with your unit, and the people closest to you, are designed both to arouse guilt feelings, and make you feel you will be all alone in a big empty world if you leave the war.
What they don’t tell you is that one of the best cures for PTSD is fighting back.
Vietnam combat troops who carefully organized inside the services, stayed saner and suffered the least damage. Vietnam vets who joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War and kept with it over the years were much more successful at keeping their heads together than those who fought or lived after the war in isolation.
It doesn’t take rocket science to understand why.
War arouses the strongest feelings a human being can experience, the terrible fear of death and the immense murderous rage that goes along with it. Human beings are hard-wired to have those reactions to the prospect of being maimed or killed.
The soldiers and vets who turned their anger into organized action against the Vietnam War got the relief that goes with taking action in the face of danger, they had the satisfaction of being able to fight a great social wrong, and they used the anger constructively to fuel their activity.
An Airborne soldier, who organized against the war in Vietnam and came home to help organize an anti-war march of Vietnam vets in Washington D.C. said: “You had to let the anger break right through the fear. Then you were OK. It was such a fucking relief. It was payback time.”
Today, the New York City Veterans’ Hospital is handing out thorazine, haldol, and valium to New York reservists back from combat in Iraq and calling it “treatment” for PTSD.
Thorazine is famous for causing impotence. Worse, it causes tardive dyskenisia, an often irreversible damage to the central nervous system that leaves the individual drooling and trembling uncontrollably. (Tardive dyskenisia, an irreversible set of abnormal movements, becomes more likely the longer the patient takes the drug; Presti, 1999.)
Haldol is given with thorazine to mask symptoms of nervous system damage. Former mental hospital patients damaged in this way have sued hospitals for millions.
Valium, along with the other benzo class of drugs, is extremely addictive and sudden withdrawal can be fatal. How bad is it? The Bellevue Hospital heroin treatment program won’t accept a patient who is taking benzos.
So, there’s a choice. Become a drooling, shaking addict, thanks to the tender mercies of the VA, or organize with active duty soldiers, veterans, and military families to stop the war, which is, after all, the only sane thing to do.
- Thomas Barton has worked with PTSD survivors for over 30 years, including war veterans at the V.A. clinic in New York City.