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Meditation may reduce PTSD, medication in soldiers

Active-duty soldiers who practice meditation reported sleeping better, feeling less irritable, and seeing improvements in relationships.

By
Stephen Feller
From left, Dr. John Rigg, Jennifer Williams and Dr. Vernon Barnes were greeted with skepticism when they added transcendental meditation as a treatment skill for PTSD, however it practitioners have found it to be so effective there is now a waiting list to enter the program and learn. Photo by University of Augusta
From left, Dr. John Rigg, Jennifer Williams and Dr. Vernon Barnes were greeted with skepticism when they added transcendental meditation as a treatment skill for PTSD, however it practitioners have found it to be so effective there is now a waiting list to enter the program and learn. Photo by University of Augusta

AUGUSTA, Ga., Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Regular practice of transcendental meditation can alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder in active-duty members of the military and allow them to reduce or stop taking medication for the condition, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Dwight Eisenhower Army Medical Center's Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic and Augusta University mounted the study, teaching service members to meditate as part of their recovery from concussions and to help with PTSD.

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While medication used for PTSD generally helps about 30 percent of patients, previous studies have shown transcendental meditation can help practitioners tune out distractions and the state of inner quietness helps reduce stress hormones.

While some health care providers hesitate to take patients off drugs for PTSD, previous studies have shown the meditation technique has helped to reduce the anxious, hyperactive state military members experience as part of the condition.

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"Concussions heal, but this is a unique concussion because it happened when somebody was trying to kill them," said Dr. John L. Rigg, a physiatrist at the Dwight Eisenhower Army Medical Center, in a press release. "It's not like you or I were riding bikes on the weekend and fell down and hit our head. There is significant emotional trauma, hyper-arousal of basic instincts of survival. They are having a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, which is being in an environment where somebody is trying to kill them on a daily basis."

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Researchers studied 74 service members with PTSD or anxiety disorder who sought treatment at the clinic, half of whom voluntarily practiced transcendental meditation in addition to their other therapies, and half of whom did not.

One month into the study, 83.7 percent of the meditation group had stabilized, decreased or stopped taking medication, while 10.9 percent increased their medication dosage. Of the non-meditation group, 59.4 percent had stabilized, decreased or stopped using drugs, while 40.5 percent increased the amount of medication taken. Similar patterns were seen at two- and six-month follow-ups.

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The researchers reported there was a 20.5 percent difference between the groups in the severity of symptoms six months into the study, with the non-meditation group seeing an increase in symptoms during that time.

The study is published in the journal Military Medicine.

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