A therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder that some doctors believe will â€œrevolutionize the way PTSD is handledâ€ was the subject of a recent â€œ60 Minutesâ€ report featuring a number of afflicted veterans, including one Medal of Honor recipient.
The breakthrough treatment, called stellate ganglion block, or SGB, has been shown to significantly diminish various symptoms of PTSD, such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
By injecting an anesthetic that numbs a bundle of nerves at the base of the neck, the SGB treatment dulls the area that serves as the bodyâ€™s â€œfight or flightâ€ response transmitter, providing instantaneous relief from some of the epidemicâ€™s most chronic symptoms.
The shot, which was initially used to treat women experiencing menopausal hot flashes, is meticulously administered using ultrasound imagery to track the injectionâ€™s precision. Its results, meanwhile, are almost immediate and can last for months.
â€œI feel like a million pounds was taken off me,â€ Medal of Honor recipient and Marine veteran Dakota Meyer told â€œ60 Minutesâ€ immediately after being administered one of the shots.
â€œThe best analogy I got for you is, like, if you took from being downtown New York City in rush hour traffic to, all of a sudden, driving down a quiet country road with nowhere to be.”
Meyer was in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, in September 2009, when a patrol he was providing security for was ambushed by more than 50 enemy fighters.
Realizing the teamâ€™s exit had been cut off, Meyer made five trips into the ambush zone over a period of six hours, braving walls of enemy fire each time to save as many pinned down personnel as he could.
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â€œHe would tell us that he was not able to get the war out of his head,â€ 60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker said of Meyerâ€™s time since that hellish day.
â€œHe brought it home with him. He was tense, he was anxious. He was quick to anger. He was losing his friends.”
But after receiving the injection by current doctor and former Navy SEAL Sean Mulvaney, a relieved Meyer felt â€œnormal.â€
Nearly 3 million service members like Meyer have deployed in support of American war operations since 2001. Of those who deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, approximately 14 percent to 20 percent suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
And while SGB is not designed to get rid of memories associated with the trauma veterans have endured, it will significantly calm the way an afflicted individual responds to those thoughts. Thus, improving responsiveness to other forms of therapy, the â€œ60 Minutesâ€ study claimed.
Previous studies of small participant groups have backed up such proclamations.
In 2014, for example, a study in the â€œMilitary Medicineâ€ journal found that just one week after the first SGB injection, nearly 80 percent of study participants experienced significant relief from PTSD symptoms.
Two years later, the Army received a $2 million grant from the Department of Defense to begin a randomized, three-year study to test the effects of the treatment on a group of 240 veterans afflicted by PTSD.
That study is set to conclude sometime this year.
Watch the full â€œ60 Minutesâ€ report on SGB below.