Tommy was wounded three different times in Vietnam, during the mid-1960s. He was a Marine, and the attitude at that stage of the war was that wounds were just part of the drill, he told me.
Many veterans with PTSD are walking pharmacies. Anti-depressants, anti-panic drugs like Xanax, tons of cigarettes, painkillers and booze are as common as cellphones in a high school.
I well remember, about a decade ago, finding a plastic baggie filled with Percocet in the alley behind my house. The cops explained that some veterans trade their prescriptions with drug dealers for liquor.
My friend has used many techniques to avoid drugs over the years. He's a Taoist, he's a vegetarian, he's my minister and a good friend. He's coming in for a visit this weekend, and I'm looking forward to it.
One turning point in his recovery came some years ago, when he finally met other men from his outfit. He recalled he was the only one not on "heavy meds," although it had taken decades of struggle and silent suffering to get where he had gotten.
In recent yearshas taken another look at the drug question, looking for solutions to PTSD, which can disable for a lifetime. Regular readers here will remember a January story about morphine, which may actually prevent it.
Now comes word that another often-abused drug, MDMA or "ecstacy," may help veterans process their PTSD memories and find relief. The drug is taken before a therapy session, during which the veteran goes back to the memories and describes them, in detail.
A group called the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is behind the work, the first serious research into psychedelics in decades.
My point here is not to endorse MDMA, or MAPS, but merely to point out that PTSD is a hard condition to treat, that many of those who suffer from it are already taking multiple drugs and seeking more dangerous options on their own, and that no route to relief should be forbidden to our heroes.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com