Contact Us
Make My Homepage

Annual PTSD Screenings Recommended by Panel

The Institute of Medicine recommended on Friday that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan be screened for post-traumatic stress disorder at least once a year and that federal agencies conduct more research to determine how well the various treatments for PTSD are working.

U.S. troops in Afghanistan
U.S. troops in Afghanistan (Johannes Simon, Getty Images)

Of the 2.6 million service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s estimated that 13 percent to 20 percent have symptoms of PTSD.

Federal agencies have increasingly dedicated more resources to screen and treat soldiers, but considerable gaps remain, according to the Institute of Medicine, an independent group of experts that advises the federal government on medical issues. Its recommendations often make their way into laws drafted by Congress and policies implemented by federal agencies.

Barely more than half of those diagnosed with PTSD actually get treatment, often because many soldiers worry it could jeopardize their careers. Also, when soldiers do get care, they’re not tracked to determine which treatments are successful in the long-term.

The Department of Defense provides medical care to active members of the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs cares for those who no longer serve. Sandro Galea, the chairman of the IOM panel, said both departments offer many programs for PTSD.

“But treatment isn’t reaching everyone who needs it, and the departments aren’t tracking which treatments are being used or evaluating how well they work in the long term,” said Galea, a professor and chair of the epidemiology department at Columbia University. “In addition, DOD has no information on the effectiveness of its programs to prevent PTSD.”

The report concludes only the first phase of the Institute of Medicine study. The committee is collecting more data to judge the effectiveness of PTSD treatments used by the departments.

The institute recommended therapies supported by robust evidence, such as working with patients to change their thinking and emotional responses to stress. But the committee’s analysis of other innovative treatments, including yoga, acupuncture and animal-assisted therapy, is hampered by a lack of evidence on their effectiveness.

PTSD is triggered by a specific traumatic event, such as being in combat or witnessing death. The symptoms of the illness include a numbing of emotions, difficulty concentrating and exaggerated startled responses to events.

The panel praised the two departments for issuing joint guidelines for managing PTSD, but it’s unknown whether their providers adhere to the guidelines. The panel said that primary care doctors within the VA screen Iraq and Afghanistan veterans annually for symptoms of PTSD, and it recommends that the Defense Department do the same.

The panel said it is hopeful that the departments will make more use of therapy through videoconferences that will allow patients in remote locations to get care.

The panel also called for more research to shed light on the brain’s defense mechanisms for stress, identify factors that can influence the timing and severity of symptoms and identify signs that could help lead to earlier diagnosis and more precise drug treatments.

The report said that the VA treated more than 438,000 veterans for PTSD in 2010, showing evidence of the widespread scope of the problem.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Best of the Web


Leave a Comment

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your points and personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

*Please note that your points, prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account with your Facebook account, just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing profile and VIP program points. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to http://nj1015.com using your Facebook account.

*Please note that your points, prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

Register on New Jersey 101.5 quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!

Not a Member? Sign Up Here.

Sign up for an account to comment, share your thoughts, and earn points to get great prizes.

Register on New Jersey 101.5 quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!