We have come a long way in our efforts to treat PTSD and other psychological disorders. Some of the best information has come from veterans themselves. For example, after suffering from the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, Army veteran John Thurman used his experience with yoga to help others, in a program that packs rooms. There are many complementary therapies that have shown great results in treating PTSD and other issues. With the number of veterans in need of these resources, it is important for healthcare professionals to put these resources to greater use.

The Washington Post reports:

Of the 2.3 million American veterans who returned from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 20 percent suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, which often includes anxiety, depression, and hypervigilance, which means they feel always on guard.

However, a combination of whole health therapies, including acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and intensive one-on-one psychotherapy are proven to rewire the brain in positive ways and help individuals overcome many psychological disorders, including PTSD. This combination of therapies has been used for over a decade in elite addiction treatment and outstrips the results of pharmaceutical based treatment, without the side effects so many pharmaceutical interventions create. The Washington Post continues:

Experts say that treatment for PTSD with painkillers, antidepressants and psychotherapy often have mixed results. The Veterans Health Administration has launched four pilot programs — including one in Richmond — offering yoga, acupuncture, Qigong, guided imagery and equine therapies, part of an effort to reduce the dependence of tens of thousands on opiate painkillers.

While doctors say the highly addictive drugs can help in the short term, they also can be harmful and often require another round of prescription pills to counteract side effects that can include insomnia, constipation, bone pain, anxiety and depression.

There is growing research evidence that whole health therapies work in ways that medications do not.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, researchers say that they found scientific support that yoga can decrease stress and help move people away from negative and traumatic thoughts. The study was also the first of its kind to provide scientific support for the benefits of yoga’s breathing techniques for PTSD patients.

Not only should the VA continue with pilot studies of holistic therapies, but evidence should be taken from related fields, such as addiction treatment, where these therapies have been used for years with great success. Our veterans need more help and they need it right away. Yoga, meditation and other holistic therapies have few if any side effects. Let’s give veterans access to these treatments to improve their lives and those of their families.