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  • Writer's pictureDr. Martin Polanco

The Concurrence of Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are two disorders suffered by veterans and soldiers, that have much in common. Both have similar symptoms, and both are hard to treat successfully. It is important to understand how each condition varies and what treatments may be helpful for each.

TBIs can range from mild, as in the case of concussion, to severe, in the case of those who experience a coma after a head injury. TBI can have persistent effects, sometimes can be miss-diagnosed and the damage from multiple concussions can accumulate causing greater severity. A common diagnostic error is to confuse the symptoms of TBI with the symptoms of PTSD. This misdiagnosis is prevalent for military personnel and veterans.

A recent study in Veterans Administration (VA) facilities revealed 73% of patients reporting TBI also had PTSD. The VA experts acknowledge that it is hard to differentiate between chronic TBI and PTSD. Most often diagnoses for both disorders are made by symptom checklists without any further in depth testing related like brain imaging.

Some of the symptoms of TBI are: headache, balance problems, concentration problems, disrupted sleep, nightmares, anxiety, depression, irritability, relationship difficulties and increased substance abuse. PTSD symptoms include: poor concentration, memory difficulties, anhedonia, social isolation, sleep difficulties, anxiety and irritability.

Below is a Venn diagram that shows the overlapping symptomatology of TBI and PTSD

Some of the pharmacological treatments used for PTSD may be harmful for those suffering from TBI. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors are used for PTSD, also benzodiazepines, mood stabilizers and atypical antipsychotics. Prescribing benzodiazepines to those with TBI can impede function or even be dangerous.

Veterans with PTSD get prescribed benzodiazepines 41% of the time, while those with both PTSD and TBI have a 67% chance of being prescribed benzodiazepines. Antipsychotics are also often prescribed for PTSD and TBI, which have been shown to slow down recovery or be dangerous mentally and physically.

The use of pharmacology may be helpful in some cases but only temporarily as these drugs only manage the symptoms and do not provide recovery of brain functions, therefore the quality of life of the sufferer is still not the best. The first step to providing a better treatment is to diagnose those suffering from TBI and PTSD accurately. Brain scanning of TBI and PTSD showed differences that allow for the correct diagnosis of each. TBI could be distinguished from PTSD using SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography) imaging with 94% accuracy. Many who have suffered a TBI also have PTSD, still treatments for each disorder must be oriented to the specifics of each client.

TBI produces deformation of the brain tissue, disruption of normal brain function and inflammation of the brain and nervous system. PTSD is associated with a pro-inflammatory activation of the immune system. More treatments should be focused on the importance of relieving the inflammation and bringing the brain into a healthy balanced state.

Alternative treatments, therapy and newer approaches for recovering from trauma and for helping the brain heal, should be available to veterans, soldiers and civilians who suffer from PTSD and TBI.

One such alternative treatment being offered outside of the United States is a protocol involving the psychedelics Ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT. Martin Polanco, MD, specializes in this field and is having remarkable success in treating PTSD and TBI using ibogaine. This molecule is an alkaloid found in the african bush Tabernanthe Iboga, it’s been used for the treatment of substance abuse. 5-MeO-DMT is a substance extracted from the glands of the bufo alvarius, a toad that lives in the Sonoran desert.

Ibogaine Treatment for TBI and PTSD in veterans

A case study report with the use of SPECT imaging was conducted on the therapeutic use of ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT for the treatment of alcohol abuse. The study showed the effects of ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT on the brain, which revealed a noticeable rewiring of the brain after the treatment. Multiple brain regions showed significant improvement after the ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT treatment. Both 5-MeO-DMT and ibogaine are natural substances that possess multiple therapeutic properties, they are scheduled and were placed in the most restricted drug category (schedule 1) in the United States and Europe alongside substances such as heroin and bath salts, making research and treatment highly restrictive, limited, and cost prohibitive in many countries. In other countries treatments with these psychedelics are not illegal or restricted.

When looking for a psychedelic treatment it is important to find a professional with experience that knows the importance of safety, contraindications and provides medical supervision throughout the treatment. Dr. Martin Polanco has been providing ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT treatments for many years now that include safety, medical screening and supervision, professional therapy support, and pre/post care.

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