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Could New PTSD Treatment Have Helped the Veteran Who Shot Up the Thousand Oaks Bar?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is ravaging veterans. Suicide rates are skyrocketing. Twenty-one veterans a day commit suicide. When Ian David Long opened fire at a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and killed 12 people, there was immediate speculation (including from the president) that Long suffered from PTSD. “He was a war veteran. He was a Marine. He was in the war. He served time. He saw some pretty bad things, and a lot of people say he had PTSD, and that’s a tough deal,” the president told reporters.

PTSD sufferers struggle with many debilitating symptoms like nightmares, interrupted sleep, depression, emotional numbness, brain fog, flashbacks, and more. But a new experimental treatment seems to be helping PTSD symptoms in every subject it is tried on — with long-term success. Dr. Harold Kraft received his MD at Georgetown University and was a clinical anesthesiologist for fifteen years. Personal relationships with two women who were the victims of sexual assault and suffered from PTSD made him interested in the subject. He read an article about a study done in Colorado that treated ten patients successfully with laser therapy and then created a dose-response curve. "As an anesthesiologist, that's what I look for as a sign of real therapy, like a drug," Kraft told PJM. When the dose of a medication goes up, the response increases relative to the dose. "But I realized they were using too small a dose. I wanted to increase the dose and shorten the treatment time."

Kraft partnered with Pat Dane, a business man and father of a former Ranger/sniper who got airlifted out of Afghanistan four years ago. Dane and Kraft have been trying valiantly to get the Department of Veterans Affairs interested in conducting a larger study after treating ten patients with huge success. "There was a 95 percent improvement that lasted one year from a three-week treatment," said Kraft. "Nightmares stopped completely and patients had improved sleep, less depression, more job opportunity and less brain fog."

The treatment consists of using a laser to access the frontal cortex in the brain. People who have PTSD show physical signs of brain changes. "It's observable on an MRI that the frontal cortex shrinks over time," said Kraft. "The way the laser works is to stimulate tissue growth and repair," he continued. "We absolutely expect to see that the frontal cortex is bigger in size and higher functioning after laser treatment." Unfortunately, Kraft and Dane lack the funding to do those follow-up tests as of yet. Current treatment for PTSD consists of antidepressant medication and talk therapy. "There are two problems with medication," said Kraft. "They must take it for life and it is only a bandaid. Many on it report feeling that medication dulls their brain. Laser therapy appears to be a permanent treatment."