Restoring humanity to life

Vitamin K for PTSD

2/15/2017        In the News 5 Comments

by Mary Neal Vieten, Ph.D., ABPP


A February 8, 2017 article in Science Daily reports the results of mice research that suggests the chemical ketamine could make soldiers less reactive to the horrors of war. Besides the typical problems associated with translating animal research into human applications, any response to this line of inquiry must include a comment on SCIENCE as well as ETHICS.

In medical research scientific inquiry assumes that the ailment being cured as well as the treatment being offered, are tangible, identifiable things that can be scientifically distinguished from other things. Ketamine is a pharmaceutical, a thing, and distinguishable from other pharmaceuticals. Its powerful anesthetic effects also make it a popularly used recreational drug, under the names Special K, Cat Valium, and Vitamin K.

PTSD on the other hand, is a construct, not a thing, it is loosely defined, and it is the sum of its definition, a definition that is not isolated by science, but rather negotiated and voted into the DSM-5. No one will argue that there is no problematic response in people who are exposed to psychologically traumatic stimuli, however no one can argue that this is a distinguishable medical thing, separated from other things by objective medical/laboratory tests.

PTSD only requires that a sufferer complains of a specific set of predictable emotional responses, after being traumatized to a licensed listener, who agrees (diagnosis/label given) or disagrees (no diagnosis or another label given). Another listener may interpret the suffering differently, and apply no label or another label. Interpretation is subject to culture, religiion, values, the experiences of the listener - the list goes on. Scientifically determined categories of illness are not subject to this latitude: you either have a bacteria, virus, cancer, macular degeneration, fracture, or you don’t. All of this is to say, that PTSD is a construct, not an illness. Think of it like “peace” or “justice.” Everyone knows when they are there, and when they are absent, but they are still the sum of their definition, not objective things.

Using a potentially harmful pharmaceutical like ketamine that is known to be addictive, cause flashbacks, and a host of other undesirable effects to treat a loosely defined construct is not only unworthy of scientific inquiry, it is also unethical. Giving it to our military members for this purpose is unconscionable. Furthermore, even in the case that PTSD was an identifiable discrete illness, discrete from other illnesses, which it is not, the hallmark of PTSD is a person who is suffering because of something horrific that occurred.

We need to consider the ETHICS of injecting humans with a substance with the goal of preventing normal human suffering in the face of horror. If we succeed, what kind of human have we created? Ask yourself if you want to be or live next door to that creation.

5 Comments

  • Dr. Sigler, thank you for your response. I am, still, disrespectfully arguing that P.T.S.D. is a real "thing", whether in the book or not, - and that it is highly recognizable by clinicians, today.

  • Sheppard, you seem to have missed Dr. Vieten's point. She didn't deny there is something that happens to people who suffer trauma. She said: "No one will argue that there is no problematic response in people who are exposed to psychologically traumatic stimuli." What she is challenging is the illusion wrapped up in DSM lingo that PTSD is a diagnosable MEDICAL problem like diabetes. "However no one can argue that this is a distinguishable medical thing" that can be seen with objective/medical laboratory tests. DSM "disorders" like PTSD do not have medical tests like bloodwork to confirm a diagnosis. She is also saying that using a psychoactive substance like ketamine to "treat" the traumatic memories with PTSD is unethical, unscientific and unconscionable if used to treat the trauma experienced by military personnel in war: "Using a potentially harmful pharmaceutical like ketamine that is known to be addictive, cause flashbacks, and a host of other undesirable effects to treat a loosely defined construct is not only unworthy of scientific inquiry, it is also unethical. Giving it to our military members for this purpose is unconscionable."

  • I wanted to give you some examples: Have you been raped several times? Have you been struck by a male in a relationship several times? Have you been intimidated by someone repeatedly? This is often experienced by a young woman on her own, perhaps in a big city where rent is very expensive and is looking for work. She then, over time, develops PTSD, where you BECOME hypervigilant and develop a super-quick startle reaction to the littlest provocation, like the slamming of a door. Or if you live in an apartment and share a wall with the neighbor in the bathroom...

  • Ketamine infusion is increasingly used as a fast-acting treatment for depression, but the results, when they happen, are temporary in addition to its addiction potential. It's also not an approved treatment for depression. Janssen/Johnson & Johnson has a ketamine knockoff, esketamine, in development as a fast-acting antidepressant as an intranasal spray. It has the same problems and adverse effects. If you want more info, try "Psychedelic Depression" and "Ketamine Desperation" on my website, faith-seeking-understanding.org

  • I disrespectfully, disagree with you. PTSD is real - call it a post traumatic reaction to certain stimuli the person considers threatening, like a door slamming can feel like anger. Your argument that, like Peace and Justice, it's either there or not. WHAT? Only someone who can walk and chew gum, simultaneouly, can opine, here.

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