Note: This article was first published in December of 2014 via www.publicpolicypirate.com
Mefloquine is a drug which was widely prescribed to Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s major side effects are hepatic and glial inflammation, leading to neuronal toxicity. In other words, it causes psychiatric symptoms such as paranoia, anger issues, cognitive dysfunction, and anger issues. It also creates hallucinations. Other side effects may include headache, migraine, confusion, nausea, anxiety, and fatigue. Many of the veterans returning from Afghanistan have been treated for psychological damage without addressing the physical causes of their symptoms, as the majority of the obvious symptoms are neurological or psychological in nature, and have been put in the same category as post-traumatic syndrome.
My research indicates that the neurotoxicity of Mefloquine is due to an error in cellular respiration (specifically, during the citric acid cycle, a proton of potassium is not being transferred, therefore adenosine diphosphate does not become adenosine triphosphate), which leads to issues with action potential sequencing and causes misfiring of the nervous system during the fight/flight/freeze cycles. This in turn causes neurotoxicity by creating a situation wherein the body accumulates the neurotransmitters responsible for reactions which leads to neural inflammation, breathing issues, cardiac issues, liver issues, etc, etc, etc. Because the condition manifests itself as an extreme psychological stress reaction, we have been treating the soldier’s psychologically without addressing the physical roots of the issues.
Due to the way that Mefloquine affects the liver, creating post hepatic liver dysfunction and primary liver damage, many of the medications prescribed for the treatment of the psychological and physiological symptoms our veterans are presenting with should be considered to be harmful to the patient’s long term recovery; in particular, those that are processed via hepatic port 40. With this in mind, special consideration should also be given to helping those who have been self medicating with alcohol or off-label medicating with prescription or nonprescription drugs.
Further. The action of Mefloquine could in fact be compared to a nerve agent, as it prevents the body from being able to break down acetylcholine, which is what causes the dysfunction in the nervous response from transitioning between the sympathetic and parasympathetic reflexes, and leads to skeletal muscle breakdown, breathing issues, and cardiac complaints. This inability to break down acetylcholine increases the likelihood of anxiety and fear-based responses to stimuli such as mild social gaffes, loud noises, fast movements, and increases the likelihood of insomnia and sleep disturbances. http://mindrenewal.us/page13.html
Treatment and Reversal of Toxicity
It should be first understood that Mefloquine is considered within pharmacology journals as a chemotherapy agent. It inflames the spinal cord, creates toxicity through impeding the normal function of the liver, but most importantly, alters the very fabric of the way the human body creates energy.
There does appear to be hope for our returning veterans though. First, we must recognize that they are fighting an almost impossible battle – little in the way of real connection to their families and the “civie” world; a system that seems to view their accomplishments oversees and skill sets as useless; a lack of a therapeutic support system (such as one involving art therapy, acting, etc); a society that views them as something of a curiosity left over from war; a mental health system which views their challenges as tragedies; and a media system that portrays PTSD in general as something to be persecuted for. Add in financial difficulties, the omnipresent irritations of dealing with red tape and bureaucracy, and a medical system which knows next to nothing about Mefloquine, and you have a recipe for tragedy on a national scale.
First, the financial difficulties should be met. Veteran’s Affairs or advocates for veterans should focus on stabilizing financial difficulties and helping sort out the bureaucratic necessities such as taxes, child support, etc. Knowing that the rent will be paid and food will be in the house goes a long way towards stabilizing mood.
Help with forms and bureaucracy is essential. Understand that those with PTSD/OSI/Mefloquine toxicity issues may be able to comprehend complicated and variable issues, but often become overwhelmed with frustration by trying to tackle forms.
Encouraging expression through arts and movement therapy via community involvement (theatre groups, choirs, team sports, tai chi groups, painting classes, etc) will be beneficial as a means of providing individuals with a method of communicating their feelings in a safe and supportive environment, providing a sense of accomplishment and employing creative rather than destructive forces in their psyche. As will volunteering within the community; however, it should also be understood that often those who wish to volunteer and are struggling with PTSD/OSI issues may need help finding appropriate volunteer positions or with the application process.
Mental health care practitioners in general need to understand that the veterans dealing with war-related mental health problems and/or Mefloquine are not tragedies; they are resilience and they are survivors who feel like strangers to their own families. Therefore, therapy should be focused towards psychoanalysis and EMDR, biofeedback, etc., and the inclination to prescribe medications should be resisted at all costs.
Mefloquine toxicity and it’s ensuing mental disturbances should not be considered merely a psychiatric problem, but rather a whole-body problem presenting with psychiatric issues. Understanding this will go a long way towards both treatment and healing, and helping the individuals suffering from the condition in understanding themselves and their role in their own healing.
Appropriate supplementation (principally taurine and magnesium in conjunction with vitamin C, and the use of malic acid, omega-3 fatty acid, and co-enzyme Q10) in order to improve mitochondrial function, support the major organs, and reduce neuronal inflammation; dietary changes (a reduction in foods which create excitotoxins) for neuroinflammation; and, the use of movement based therapy (such as yoga) will help to support the internal organs enough to sustain the immune system so the body can begin to work on healing itself.
Physiotherapy and focused breathing exercises are of utmost importance. The practice of tai chi or qiqong has been shown to have very important medical benefits to those dealing with changes to the cell structure, and provide a healthy, safe way for a person to physically release stress. More importantly, qigong has been proven to reduce the activity of cytokines, which are the source of inflammation.
A seldom investigated or discussed aspect of treatment should concern the individual’s spiritual or religious activities. There is a growing body of evidence that indicates that spiritual or religious devotions (be it prayer, genuflections, lighting of candles, etc) improves dopamine levels and acts as a means for reducing internal chaos and pressure, thereby reducing neuronal inflammation. For some this may mean attending church, for others, it may mean going for walks in a spiral path in a Buddhist garden.
The use of binaural beats and isochronic frequencies with neurolinguistic programming can be utilized to shut up the internal chaos or self persecutional/harmful ideas, to relieve depression and anxiety, and to assist with insomnia.
And the understanding that the toxicity will not be reversed in a day must be made. It is a lifelong process.
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