DAILY / MAY 3, 2014, VOL. 4, NO. 18   Send Feedback l View Online
Psychiatric News Update
The Voice of the American Psychiatric Association and the Psychiatric Community
twitter facebook facebook
2014 APA's Annual Meeting Special Edition

The New Buzz in PTSD Care: How Complementary and Alternative Medicine Helps Patients

Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, M.D.When it comes to effectively treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), clinicians and researchers alike agree that more effective therapies are sorely needed, especially in the aftermath of combat. Today at APA’s 2014 annual meeting, retired Army colonel and psychiatrist Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, M.D., led a multidisciplinary panel of experts from the Navy, Army, Veterans Health Administration, and industry who presented the state of the art in the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for treating PTSD.

The consensus among the panelists was that CAM modalities offered patients with PTSD who have tried and failed existing evidence-based therapies much needed symptom relief. One of the panelists, U.S. Navy Captain Anita H. Hickey, M.D., explained: “Advanced imaging, heart rate variability, and biomarker studies demonstrate that acupuncture and other CAM modalities are able to treat both physical and emotional deregulation found in PTSD patients through correction of imbalances of the immune, sympathoadrenal, and autonomic nervous systems.”

Panelists presented results on medical acupuncture, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, meditation, animal-assisted therapies, and even a new technique involving an injection in the neck called stellate ganglion block.

The most commonly reported benefits of CAM for PTSD were improvements in sleep patterns, hypervigilence, headaches, depression, chronic pain, stress levels, and the ability to interact calmly with others in social settings. Presenters emphasized that much of the research on CAM was in its infancy, although a few prospective epidemiologic studies and randomized clinical trials have been completed, with more studies under way.

One of the panelists, Maryam Navaie, M.D., an epidemiologist from Advance Health Solutions, highlighted the economic incentive for conducting research. Said Navaie: “The cost burden of unsuccessfully treating PTSD is in the billions, so our nation would be wise to invest more resources in innovative research.” Another panelist, Eugene G. Lipov, M.D., from Chicago Medical Innovations, expressed hopefulness: “The fact that the use of cervical sympathetic blockade for treating PTSD is being discussed at the APA annual meeting is a very large step in the possible solution for this devastating disease.”

Conference participants like Robert N. McLay, M.D., a Navy psychiatrist who collaborates on CAM research studies for PTSD at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, was also optimistic. Said McLay, "This type of talk allows us to keep an open mind about new options for PTSD treatment, but also reminds us to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism so that we aren't feeding our patients snake oil."

Another audience member, Amber Wandtke, a Navy service member whose husband was medically discharged from the Army with PTSD, had this to say after attending the session: “As someone who was at first skeptical about CAM, I think it is really important to be open minded in trying alternative methods of treatment for PTSD. Now that I know about these options, I advocate for these alternative methods. My husband and I are proof that CAM really does work.”




 subscribe to blog rss

>>subscribe to blog via email

Copyright © 2014 American Psychiatric Association. All rights reserved.