PTSD & Alcoholism

Patients with PTSD & Alcoholism: Five Case Summaries

William C. Scott, CCDP

This is a brief summary of the five patients with PTSD who underwent neurotherapy for the treatment of alcoholism as part of a formal study on remediation of alcoholism with 24 subjects. The five quite easily met the DSM IV criteria for chronic post-traumatic stress disorder prior to their undergoing 30 sessions of alpha-theta neurofeedback with a modification of the Peniston Protocol. Dr. Peniston was very instrumental as a consultant on this study, and he contributed to the research design. The study was intended to demonstrate the effectiveness of this treatment for alcoholism. Outcomes for addiction and pre/post MMPI changes from this study are the subject of a paper that has been submitted for publication. Hence these results will not be presented here. The essential findings, however, were that previously published results by Peniston were replicated with this modified protocol.

 Client #l is a GI Vietnam combat veteran with a 10 year delayed onset.

Post treatment, client no longer experiences the following: 3-5 sleep disturbances per night from intrusive thoughts; flashbacks/night terrors; hypervigilance; a need to sleep under his bed; unpredictable rage; avoidance of social situations or cues that stimulate flashbacks; an almost constant tension headache.

What happened: About halfway through client’s process, he experienced a vision of himself hovering over himself through every tour and battle he remembered and some he had forgotten. He states he felt safe, because he was only witnessing the experience, rather than reliving it. It appears he and the others completing this modification of the Peniston Protocol, processed the events under a low-aroused state where they could be re-stored as past memories, rather than current ongoing trauma.

Funding came from Blue Cross-Blue Shield, when the client’s employer demanded they fund this treatment or their account would be dropped.

 Client #2 is a SF POW surviving Vietnam combat vet.

Post treatment, client no longer experiences the following: Suffers from frequent flashbacks, hallucinations, delusions, and violent outbursts, requiring monthly hospitalizations or even incarcerations, as well as enforced anti-psychotic medication management

Client is now leading a normal productive life and has started a veteran support group in his community. He had one intrusive thought episode accompanied by panic reaction six months following treatment on the anniversary date of a mercy killing of a best friend. This was the single such episode within one and a half years after treatment. The client states he knows what it’s all about when vets “go over the edge” and start sniping people. He said prior to treatment, on several occasions the only thing that kept him from doing this himself was not owning an M16 or having immediate access to weapons.

What happened: Client had a series of images during sessions where he entered the safe witness state and viewed himself going through battles etc. His process was very similar to the one previously discussed.

Funding came from a negotiated contract with the VA.

 Client #3 is a GI combat Vietnam combat vet.

Post treatment, client no longer experiences the following: episodes of disassociation where he speaks Vietnamese and hallucinates, has flashbacks, night tenors, and rageful or even violent outbursts, resulting in numerous incarcerations. Hypervigilance.

What happened: This client differed from the rest in that he states he couldn’t recall much of the imagery he experienced during his sessions. I suspect this client was afraid of being judged and didn’t wish to share his experience.

Funding came from the State of Minnesota.

 Client #4 is a female who left an abusive home at age 16

She spent two years with an extremely violent man where she was beaten to the point of requiring hospitalization several times. At age 18, she got into some trouble and ended up spending some time in jail. Compared to the prior relationship and her earlier upbringing, jail was a comfortable and safe place. As a result, from age 18 to 31, she only spent enough time out of jail to get back in. She was very ‘institutionalized.’

Post treatment, client no longer experiences the following: panic attacks; persistent hypervigilance; avoidance of social situations, avoidance of stimuli associated with past traumas. The client now feels the world outside prison is safe. She now believes she has a future and thinks more positively about her life.

What happened: As with most of the others, she had a series of hypnogogic images whereby she found her truth about the nature of the world and how it differed from her prior tainted perceptions. She has now been free from jail for almost two years.

Funding came from the State of Minnesota.

 Client #5 is a female who was both physically and sexually abused during formative years.

Post treatment, client no longer experiences the following: intrusive thoughts, regressive behaviors, sleep disturbances, sensitivity to external cues, estrangement from others, hypervigilance, difficulty with concentration, and exaggerated startle responses.

What happened: Similar to the others, made peace with and befriended herself.

Funding came from the State of Minnesota.

With an accumulated 20 months of follow-up, these people no longer meet the DSM IV criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder. The same is true for the 10 individuals in Dr. Peniston’s study, after nearly 10 years of follow-up. Eighty percent of these also maintained sobriety.

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