The U.S. Army has begun funding a study to determine if stellate ganglion blocks, an anesthetic shot to the neck, could significantly alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The $2 million study could help the hundreds of thousands of troops currently afflicted with PTSD relieve some of the major symptoms of the disease, like anxiety, hyper-vigilance and social withdraw.
The injections have been used for years to treat arm pain and shingles, but have recently been used to treat Navy Seals and Green Berets returning from service.
The early clinical treatment has produced almost immediate relief for many of the symptoms of PTSD and has sparked major military interest in the drug.
Colonel Jim Lynch, command surgeon at the Joint-Special Operations Command-Africa, has been an active proponent of the drugs abilities and potential.
“Once people have the shot, they get dramatically better immediately,” Dr. Lynch said, adding that the drug is not a cure but a relief.
Many in the military will not follow Dr. Lynch’s endorsement of the drug until further evidence from a controlled trial can be determined.
Ron Hoover, the psychiatrist in charge of the Army’s new study, said in a statement to the Journal, “It has yet to be proven that it really does work. The Army takes a fairly conservative position about treatments or any kind of medical care. They don’t want to risk service members.”
The study does face some initial problems, however. Many service members have heard promising things about the drug from colleagues, leading to an initial issue of a placebo effect. Of the 240 members that would be involved in the trial, 80 would receive a saline solution to identify any placebo factors. Volunteers will be difficult to find when many know they can receive the injection free from military hospitals.
The conundrum the drug poses between troops that are already convinced of its effectiveness and the Army’s need for greater acceptance among its medical community is just another one of the issues the drug will need to overcome.
Whatever the future of the injections may be, the Army is hopeful in the injections possibility and actively searching for any cure for PTSD.