About Today’s Guest:
Dr. Eugene Lipov is board certified in Anesthesiology and Pain Management and has been practicing in the field of pain medicine since 1990. He completed Northwestern Medical School in 1984, Anesthesia Residency at University of Illinois in 1989, and Advanced Pain Training in 1990.
Dr. Lipov pioneered adaption of a sympathetic block in the neck called Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) for treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and hot flashes. Considering current efficacy of PTSD treatment is under 30 percent, using pharmaceuticals and psycho therapy, SGB’s success rate of 85 percent is a major game-changer.
So far, he and his team have treated over 200 veterans. Their foundation has covered the cost of treatment and travel of 100 veterans. They have also treated several hundred civilian patients with diagnosis of PTSD from all over the world. They have successfully treated military-related PTSD, Military Sexual Trauma (MST), PTSD due to being a first responder, non-military sexual trauma, pediatric sexual trauma, and PTSD from other traumatic events.
Additionally Dr. Lipov treats pain patients at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, and at his private practice, Advanced Pain Center.
Links Mentioned in this Episode:
Shauna’s latest book: Beyond the Military: A Leader’s Handbook for Warrior Reintegration
Duane’s latest book: Military in the Rear View Mirror: Mental Health and Wellness in Post-Military Life
How to Leave a Podcast Review
Leaving a podcast review at iTunes isn’t intuitive. But positive ratings are hugely important: they help the podcast get discovered by new people. Please spend 5 minutes of your time to leave a review using one of the methods below.
How to leave a podcast review using Apple’s Podcast app
1. Navigate to Seeking the Military Suicide Solution on Apple Podcasts on your iPhone or iPad.
2. Click “Listen on Apple Podcasts”
3. Scroll down and click or tap “Write a Review.” Enter your iTunes password to login.
4. Rate the podcast using 1 to 5 stars.
5. Submit a brief honest review.
Bonus: get a thank-you note
Your feedback is greatly appreciated. When you leave a review, drop us a line at email@example.com and you’ll get a message with the warmest appreciation, and a bonus gift!
Duane and Shauna
Duane France (00:00):
Welcome to Episode Five of the Seeking the Military Suicide Solution podcast brought to you by the Military Times. I’m Duane France.
Shauna Springer (00:07):
And I’m Doc Shauna Springer.
New Speaker (00:08):
And we’d like to thank you for taking the time to learn more about suicide in the military affiliated population. I’d like to thank our sponsors, milMedia Group. milMedia Group is a proven web design and digital media agency specializing in supporting organizations focusing on the military population. Find more about them at www.milmediagroup.com.
New Speaker (00:34):
Thanks again to everybody for joining us to listen to the conversation about service member veteran and military family suicide. Our guest today is Dr. Eugene Lipov Shauna, what would you like to tell us about Gene?
Shauna Springer (00:45):
Yeah. So Dr. Eugene Lipov is a board certified physician in anesthesiology and pain management who’s been practicing in the field of pain management since 1990. He’s an assistant professor of surgery at University of Illinois, completing medical school at Northwestern in 1984, was an anesthesia residency at university of Illinois in 1989, and advanced pain training in 1990. But Dr. Lipov, more than anything is a pioneer and he’s really pioneered the adaptation of a sympathetic block in the neck called stellate ganglion block, SGB, as it’s known for treating post traumatic stress. In the book Outliers. Malcolm Gladwell talks about this idea of the 10,000 hour rule, and he says that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill is to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way for over around 10,000 hours. And by that definition, Dr. Lipov is a master three or four times over when it comes to this.
Shauna Springer (01:50):
So he’s been doing SGB over the course of his 30 years in the field and since he adapted it for use with PTS, he’s done hundreds of stellate ganglion block procedures over 14 years with those who have served in the military. So because of this, his methods and his understanding are really light years ahead of anyone else in the field. In the past year, I’ve personally referred about 20 patients to him. And as you know, Duane, I’m not really a true believer by nature, but I have to say what I’ve observed is really compelling. His treatment with stellate ganglion block has transformed the lives of everyone I’ve referred to him. And he’s literally saved the lives of a few of my prior patients. There are several who have called me in a state of suicidal crisis who are now feeling lasting relief from their symptoms, who view the future in a totally different way, much more hopeful now. So this may be one of the most important conversations we host on this podcast. But I’m excited to get into it. And you know, I really like brave people and so I’m honored that Dr. Lipov Is joining us for this conversation.
Duane France (03:00):
Well, I agree. As I often say to people is you know, suicide is not the problem to be solved. It’s the symptom of an underlying issue. And for many veterans who are in a place of suicidal crisis, those underlying issues are suffering with things like post traumatic stress and the increased anxiety and the hypervigilance and things like that. And so Dr. Lipov is not someone who would normally be on a list of suicide prevention experts. He would be on this list of people that are treating one of the conditions that leads to suicide. This is what we wanted to do is bring somebody on the show that, look, this is a novel, unique intervention that is actually working that this can be one piece of the puzzle. So really appreciated my conversation with Gene. Let’s get into that and we’ll come back afterwards to pull out some of the key points.
Duane France (04:00):
I know about the neurological basis for PTSD. Obviously it is as much neurological, as it is psychological and the work that you have done really addresses the neurological aspect of PTSD using stellate ganglion block. So really to get started, I guess if you can give us sort of an understanding of what it is and maybe how it works.
Eugene Lipov (04:23):
Sure. Well, thank you very much for having me. One. So I think it’s very hard to separate psychologic from biologic because if the brain is not there, there’s no psychologic anything. And then that’s why working with amazing people like Dr. Springer, it’s really great to be able to have people evaluate and make the correct diagnosis. And after we do the physiological intervention to do the follow up and really to be able to help them get to the ultimate goal, which is functioning to the pre trauma state, I believe. So if I may, I’d like to tell you what I believe PTSD is and what it’s not. So what it’s not as this amorphous nonspecific issue. While if you look at the physiologic aspect of what happens is when somebody is traumatized being military or non-military, then body produces something called NGF nerve growth factor, which promotes sprouting or increased growth of sympathetic fibers, which is fight and flight fibers.
Eugene Lipov (05:30):
As the longest that condition’s maintained, people have increased norepinephrine that are on the brain and norepinephrine kind of activates the body or the brain. Specifically, the part that seems to be overactivated is called them Amygdala on the right side. Amygdala is the anger and fear center of the brain. So functional MRIs or biologic scan and assess can can demonstrate that, which is really cool because you can actually help diagnose a biologic change in the brain. And then I think if people understand that it’s much easier to come to grips with PTSD is it’s not a weakness of the soul or something like that. It’s actual biologic change and you can do psychological support, but sometimes it’s just not enough. And that’s when they do stellate gangli0n block on the right side and it seems to reduce the sympathetic overgrowth. It’s called pruning…neuroscience likes those terms..and then it seems to reduce too much sympathetic fight and flight system or activations, norepinephrine drops and then people feel markedly better within 10, 15 minutes of a procedure, which is amazing to see. I never get tired of the same and the response can last for years. That’s kind of in a nutshell what we are doing.
Duane France (06:43):
Yeah, and that’s great. I often, usually when I meet with a veteran client for the first time, I describe thi, the neurological, the biological aspect of PTSD. And for many of the clients, it’s the first time they’d heard about it. Right. You know, it’s they’ve been told for years that it’s, it’s all in your head, meaning you’re making it up, not, it’s all in your head, the fact that it’s in your brain. But really describe this the, the amygdala, the hippocampus. I describe that as sort of the gas pedal. But then our prefrontal lobe is sort of the governor that keeps the RPMs from going too high and, and really the hyperactivity of the lower part of the brain and the amygdala and that’s basically what caused a lot of the distress symptoms, the emotional symptoms, as you said, the anger and fear or anxiety and the hypervigilance and things like that. So that’s how I sorta describe it to my clients. Would that be accurate?
Eugene Lipov (07:40):
I think you’re exactly right on because, it’s kind of interesting, one of the people who follows my work, he gave me a story about a SEAL or a Special Ops operator, and that he had horrible experience out in the field. And then he was taking some very strong medication, atypical antipsychotics, and that’s kept him pretty sleepy and tired. Not too bad, but he was able to function. So he had the stellate ganglion block and then he fell asleep driving the car. So that’s exactly, I use the same terminology. You have the gas pedal, which is the amygdala and you have the break, frontal cortex. But in this case it was also the medication. So when he took the foot of the gas pedal, the brake was too much and that’s why he fell asleep. Exactly the same thing. So I agree with that.
Duane France (08:29):
PTSD…the show obviously is about seeking the suicide solution, but suicide is a lagging indicator of an underlying problem. And for a lot of service members, but even family members who may have secondary traumatic stress and things like that. The the stellate ganglion block and the stellate ganglion block is something that, you know, helps reduce the trauma, which then in turn helps reduce suicidal ideation. Have you seen that?
Eugene Lipov (08:59):
Very, very much. If I may, I would say it doesn’t help reduce the trauma. It helps reduce the after effects of trauma. Would you agree with that? You can’t change the trauma. It has alreayd happend.
Eugene Lipov (09:11):
So I’d like to give you an example of one person kind of, to me it’s all about examples. You know, you’re old when you have a story about everything. So one of the guys we treated, he came in and he was in Vietnam, he was on a national show with me in 2012. He came in and he was very distraught and in fact I was having an opening in our Institute and he wouldn’t come in because there were too many people. A lot of people with severe because the, as you probably know, they’re agoraphoic and they’re very anxious in crowds. And so he came in and then he said, do you mind doing procedures? So I did the procedures. So he later said, I was actually thinking of suicide before I needed a procedure.
Eugene Lipov (09:56):
Right after you did it, I didn’t want to do that anymore. And the reason that happens is because I gave a speech in American Psychiatric Association in 2015 and that for that I research what causes suicidal, what are the trends that lead to suicide? And it seems to be two things. And I’d like to know your experience. One is they have severe sleep difficulties and two, over reactivity to stimuli. And that’s what [SGB] actually works on the best. Overreactivity and sleep dysfunction really drives people crazy because you don’t sleep well enough, you never feel right by yourself. And then this guy, Raleigh had 40 years of psychotherapy for zero. So my point to him, you know, somewhere you have to stop and have some really good trauma informed psychotherapists, but I’m sure nobody is going torecommend 40 years of therapy that does not work. Somewhere you just got to go. He had two injections.
Duane France (10:48):
And I think that’s key. You know, like you said, at some point we have to figure out something that doesn’t work. And that’s where we’re at, especially with suicide is we keep throwing things at it. And the same old problems, you know, maybe we, we know the numbers of two years ago. But if we’re doing the same thing today that we were doing in 2018, then we’re going to get 2018 numbers in 2020. So yes, it is trying to figure out how to do something different. And the SGB is exactly that. You know, yes, I absolutely do see that insomnia is a significant factor. Sleep deprivation…and we were trained for it in the military, right? You know this, we were proud of being able to operate on minimal sleep for an extended period of time, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to post-military life.
Duane France (11:38):
So that is a sort of a life factor that impacts it. The way that I always describe suicide to my clients is that it’s an attempt to stop pain: physical pain, obviously those individuals in extreme physical, chronic pain. Emotional pain, the depression, the anger, the anxiety, moral pain, right? But, and so it’s, it is an attempt to stop pain and more explicitly and attempt to stop suffering. And for many service members and their families, they think that’s the only way to stop the suffering. But from my understanding, that’s what SGB does, is it reduces the symptoms and relieves the “pain”. And in some ways I think very literally. So that suicide’s no longer an option.
Eugene Lipov (12:24):
Well kind of, so let me, let me get my perspective. Being a pain physician. I’m very sensitive to the term pain. So we have a nonprofit Erase PTSD Now, and I’m not trying to certainly push that, but you know, our subtitle is stop the misery. It’s not necessarily pain, it’s the misery of existence. So the service members, military and non-military that people have been treated basically they have a very similar report. My life is just pure misery and there is no hope. So to me suicide actually is lack of hope. I think especially military service members can deal with a lot of pain, but if they know that there’s nothing else to do, they keep doing the same thing and making everybody around them miserable, they’re miserable. What’s the point of living once you lose hope? That’s a big issue. And then to me, the great thing about stellate ganglion block,, it works in about 20 to 30 minutes. So people walk in and they walk out totally differently. The family members, significant others see a difference. And the other part that’s really cool about it, compliance is not a problem for us. Somebody comes in, they get treatment, they feel different, and success rate is, and let’s say 80%, which is pretty high compared to the regular stuff. But if you look at that, the compliance is a big problem, right? Conventional therapeutics. Here is a significant difference. So that’s kind of my answer,
Duane France (13:49):
You know and it’s a great point. And I think that you have just caused me to modify my terminology because yes, that, that is even more correct. It’s the way to stop the misery whereas, you know, and being nonmedical but clinical, obviously applying “pain,” the term pain, but you’re exactly right and it’s misery. And it’s the absence of hope that this will never stop.
Speaker 6 (14:14):
Hi, I’m Alyssa Mosher. I’m a local army spouse, daughter, sister and a proud team member of milMedia. I’m here at our headquarters at the great Fort Hood, Texas. MilMedia is a military affiliated team that wants to serve you the way that you served our country. With mostly military retirees, veterans and families as our staff, we understand the military mindset. milMedia is the one place that prioritizes your goals above all else, which you will see from our incredible customer service. With over 25 years of experience, we work with everyone from startups, small businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofits. milMedia group is the digital division of Top Sarge Business Solutions that specializes as a web design and digital marketing platform. So visit our website today for a free website analysis so that you can sit back, relax, and let us give you the perfect online presence to hear more about what milMedia is doing and will continue to do, call me today at (254) 554-0974 or visit our website. That’s milMediagroup.com So call me whenever you’re ready.
Duane France (15:33):
It would be a stretch to say that you restore hope, but by relieving these symptoms hope is restored
Eugene Lipov (15:40):
So well. So I’ll tell you what my patients are telling me. So it does offer hope. And in fact, some people don’t have a stellate ganglion block, which is kind of counterintuitive. But they say, you know, this is our last hope. What happens if it doesn’t work? Because we tell people it doesn’t work on everyone, right? So we’re not saying this certainly, we’re gonna, you know, hope restore is way too big of a term. But to me, I think especially men, look at anything like why? You know, Einstein said expecting different results when doing the same thing is insanity, right? So somebody knows you’re going to do the same thing. How could you have hope? Because you already tried this. So he had to try something totally different. And at least to me, it gives a lot of hope that there is a good chance it’s going to work for you and you don’t have to…
Eugene Lipov (16:24):
The other part is that you don’t have to tell people, well, wait another six months. And unfortunately medication takes months to years to work, if ever. Right?. And that’s a very different dynamic here. So that’s why I like that, being a man as like, you know, I’d like to do something which helps and we’re done. You don’t have to talk about it, you now feel better. Now go seek appropriate psychiatric treatment. Now reintegrate with your family. Don’t be an asshole, but have a great life. Right? I used to be a trauma surgeon, so I’m pretty direct.
Duane France (16:52):
Right, right. So, and it might be helpful for listeners to understand what actually stellate ganglion block is. You kind of talked about it in the very beginning. But, but what is the actual procedure? This is a medical procedure. This isn’t therapy.
Eugene Lipov (17:08):
Absolutely not. Well, first of all, I’m not a psychiatrist. I don’t know much about psychiatry. I’m an anesthesiologist. So typically anesthesiologist, I’m not really, we did not participate as a specialty in psychiatric care normally. However so an interesting set of circumstance, I was able to figure out that a old procedure called stellate ganglion blocks since been done since 1925 has marked effect on PTSD. So let me just walk through the procedure if I may. So the patient comes in, we do the usual evaluation, like for any medical procedure, make sure everything’s fine. We put an IV in. IV is done for safety. Some people want to go to sleep, some do not. So I want to stay up for that. Again, as said, I’m very comfortable giving people sedation and other physician give it to them. The patient lies on their back.
Eugene Lipov (17:55):
When I’m on the scan, I use fluoroscopy guidance. So x-ray to figure out what are we going? Numb up the skin on the right side of the Adam’s Apple. And then we place the needle to that area under guidance and then put a little dye and make sure there’s no issues and put local anesthetic and what’s he put in, it’s called bupivacaine, the same drug that’s used on pregnant women. So you know, it’s pretty safe. It’s been around for 50 years. So everything that’s used for this procedure is old. What’s new is a new indication. I was able to determine that this particular procedure has marked impact on PTSD rapidly. But I’ve been doing stellate ganglion blocks for 30 years. With PTSD, I’ve been doing it for 14 years.
Duane France (18:33):
And so it just so happened that I had a random encounter when I was in Dallas over the summer of 2019 with a Marine Corps veteran who had received a stellate ganglion block and he volunteered the fact that he had gotten SGB and he did say that it was something that had changed his life and reduced symptoms. And he also said that it helped him engage in therapy better after that. Because he said, I still had all of these different things and so he still had to manage these things in his life. And this is what I always tell clients for me is this is what maybe some medications can do. It can sort of calm the waters so you can learn the skills to be able to manage these issues. I generally understand it’s the same with stellate ganglion block is it reduces the symptoms to the point where the veteran or the service member of the family member can actually go work with an individual in therapy and the therapy doesn’t need to take 40 years. It can work a lot faster.
Eugene Lipov (19:34):
So I think you’re absolutely right. So what we do find, is I highly suggest doing, like as I said, Dr. Springer is amazing in this. She’s like a true professional in this space. So the key points, so let me compare and contrast [SBG] to regular medications, right? So you’re absolutely right. So people define as people can’t comply. It was going to come to behavior therapy or trauma-informed therapy. I don’t know that much about it, but I do know a specialist and especially Dr. Springer. But the key point there, it reduces their over reactivity so they can comply with that. They don’t get pissed off. They don’t get shut down. You can actually talk about the real issues, but the difference in that and the medication, a lot of times medications, let’s say you’ve taken benzodiazepine before your session, you’re not going to remember half of the session and you’ll have doubt. That’s not good. You want to have somebody who’s clear but not over reactive. And that’s what [SGB} does. That’s a different, but I agree with that. If he can calm the waters without sedating you or screw around the memory, people speak as they already have memory issues.
Duane France (20:35):
Right. And I think that’s a critical part of this. And obviously you know, a lot of veterans will say, do you know the side effects of the medication and you have to take a medication to modify the side effects and those have effects. And there’s sort of a crescendo effect when it comes to medication. And this, again, I see that this reduces a lot of that. So it takes a lot of the medications off the table. We do a procedure called transcranial magnetic stimulation, which is very specific for depression. It takes them off of the medications a lot. Just being off the medications, lifts the veterans’ spirits,
Eugene Lipov (21:08):
Oh I agree and think TMS definitely has a place in it. And it’s been used for depression for a number of years. He just, the affinity of it is different. It takes sometime to do it. And I agree with you, I highly applaud approaches which are non-medication such as RTMS, EMDR, you know, all of those. If they can reduce the patient’s overreactivity, I think that is huge and it helps them.
Duane France (21:31):
So you’ve found yourself…as you said you’ve been doing this for the past 15 years and so shortly after our current conflicts began. And, and it’s taken…I get the sense that it’s taken you awhile to really get this information out into the mainstream and even to be recognized by medical professionals, by mental health professionals, by the community at large.
Eugene Lipov (21:53):
That is a true statement. Totally. Yes, sir. Yeah. I gave testimony in front of Congress in 2010. I had a letter of support of Senator Obama, 2007. I’ve applied multiple times for grants and I’ve been pretty rebuked Pretty good. But I think they’re finally at the preface of this being available for the people who need it.
Duane France (22:13):
And so the idea, and one of the goals of this show is to identify what gaps exist. And as Doc Springer and I were talking about what gaps exist in the suicide for the military population space. We’re talking psychological interventions, we’re talking, you know medication interventions but you’re filling a gap that exists when it comes to physiological interventions for a psychological disorder.
Eugene Lipov (22:38):
I think that’s totally true. I think you’re right. And then not everything is fixable by [SGB]. There’s no one thing that’s gonna fix everything. But I think giving emotional support, having people to talk to ,supporting the spouses. And a lot of times I think you know better than I do because you’re out in the trenches. But when the spouse leaves, a lot of times those patients become suicidal at that point. So supporting and understanding that is a secondary because the, as you alluded to, the significant other can have. So supporting all of that and other parts of one of my interests is to be able to treat the patient and the spouse. And I also have treated children because the entire family undergoes a severe stress because typically a father comes back and highly violent, then you can predict that everybody suffers.
Eugene Lipov (23:24):
But everybody wants it to work, not just the soldier. And that’s why, you know, that’s why it takes a lot of that. So all I can do is reduce symptoms but then people as yourself and Doc Springer can really navigate the complexities of family dynamics and all of that. The other part that’s I wanted to mention is that I didn’t realize until I looked into that 85% of men sexual dysfunctions with PTSD. I wrote a chapter on that, actually. And then turns out [SGB] tends to reverse a lot of those effects, which is a big deal. Intimacy and the relationship is a big deal as well.
Duane France (23:56):
No, you’re, you’re absolutely right. I was actually attending talk with Dr. Irvin Yalom and he was talking about how some clients aren’t comfortable talking about death and mortality in therapy, and absolutely respect Dr. Yalom, but veterans are, are very comfortable talking about death and mortality in therapy. As a matter of fact, more comfortable talking about their mortality than they are talking about their sexual dysfunction. That is even in the therapy space something that is usually comes out, you know, weeks or months later it says, Oh, by the way, I’m having this issue as well. I didn’t realize that SGB also had an impact on that.
Eugene Lipov (24:34):
Yeah. But you know, again, one of the things, I think I’m fortunate that having had amazing training in a trauma unit, and I like being direct and soldiers, especially male, are loving directness, right? So I don’t ask them, it’s like, Oh, do you have sexual dysfunction? How’s it affecting you? Not me. It’s like, Hey, you don’t have to tell me, but this may actually happen. So if it happens, great. If doesn’t, okay. So I get occasional phone call. “So doc, you know, you’re right,” and give me this wink and it’s like, okay, enough said! We’re good to go. I’ve just not a voyeur.
Duane France (25:08):
So, and like you said, you’ve been doing this for a number of years, how can listeners find out more about stellate ganglion block? You know, if they’re interested in learning more about the procedure, learning more about you.
Eugene Lipov (25:21):
Sure. If you go into www.sgbptsd.com. Really simple.
Duane France (25:30):
That’s great. And I’ll make sure that the link to that is in the show notes and we’ll, we’ll link to some of your articles that you’ve written on the subject so that the listeners can go find more. Really appreciate you coming on. Absolutely. I really appreciate you coming on the show today.
Eugene Lipov (25:46):
Duane France (25:50):
You had known Gene for a very long time and I really appreciated you bringing him or suggesting that he come on the show. I had mentioned to you that I had heard of him. I’d heard him on a couple of other shows. Like you said, not really a true believer. I’m not somebody that believes in thisn magic bullet that, you know, the one thing that cures everything. But I really, really enjoyed my conversation with Gene.
Shauna Springer (26:16):
Yeah. And the thing is, Gene wouldn’t either. You know, neither one of us would say, as I’m sure you would agree, you know, this is the solution, you know, for post traumatic stress. In fact, one of the things that is really important, I think to emphasize is that Gene Lipov, Dr. LIpov, really sees this as something that is combined with therapy, really good therapy and other treatments and yoga and meditation to really get the effect that we’re seeking. And so, you know, I’ve really thought of this as an accelerant to really good therapy. That’s how it’s worked for me, for all of the patients that I’ve referred. It’s like this, when we’re chronically flooded with adrenaline, it’s really hard to learn new things, to take in new insights and really apply them. Our vision literally tunnels and we’re in survival mode.
Shauna Springer (27:08):
And it’s not only our learning that’s impacted by post traumatic stress, but also our sleep is affected. You know, our memories are poor. Our sex life can be impacted because chronic over arousal impacts all of this. So when SGB is used to treat the biological symptoms of this overarousal, there’s a window of opportunity that opens up for people to really make changes in terms of how they think, how they behave and how they express themselves with those they love. So SGB and therapy can work together in a really synergistic way. And like I said, that’s really how it’s worked for the patients that Dr. Lipov and I have co-treated. So he believes in the value of therapy. And definitely I think, you know, what we’re about, you and I, Duane is about really not siloing treatments but working across areas of expertise. And I think that people like Gene Lipov and others that bring innovation forward are going to be some of our greatest assets for suicide prevention. So I’m really glad we had him on.
Duane France (28:14):
Yeah, I think it’s a great example of the collaborative nature of addressing this issue. Right. And he even said it in the show. He’s not a psychiatrist, he’s not a trained mental health professional. But the thing that he does impacts the psychological makeup and the challenges that some veterans face. I think I deployed with a a guy who, didn’t know it, for the years that I’d known him. He was suffering with extreme, extreme back pain, right? This chronic pain. And after our deployment to Iraq, he had taken some medical leave. He had gotten some vertebrae replaced, right? He’d gotten the vertebrate fusion. He came in…like, I didn’t recognize him. Like his face looked different and I was…he looked literally years younger because he wasn’t dealing with the chronic pain, but I didn’t know him before that. And it was almost an amazing transformation. And that’s an example of, it’s very hard to address what’s going on if you’re in this extreme chronic pain or if you have, you know, gastric issues or whatever. If we work with the medical community to address those issues in the whole veteran or whole individual concept…well this is just the same thing. It just happens to be in the brain, not in the back or the belly.
Shauna Springer (29:35):
Right. I mean it’s so interesting that you talked about him looking so different because that was another thing that I really wanted to hit on that you know, Dr. Lipov talked about how people feel remarkably better, markedly better, you know, in the minutes after they received this procedure and how he never gets tired of seeing that even doing, you know, many hundreds of cases. And you know, sometimes we see this in therapy like when someone reaches a new insight that changes everything for them, how they see the past, the present, the future and their face changes. And it’s really hard to put it into words, but, but you hit on that and I did want to kind of hit on this as well because SGB doesn’t work for everyone. And I’m saying that based on, you know, 75% to 85% of those treated according to research have the outcome that we’re seeking, but for the cases that I’ve referred, it’s worked for all of them.
Shauna Springer (30:34):
100% hit rate for the cases I’ve referred. So probably about 25 in total. And what’s interesting is that even with such a small sample size of 25 cases, there’s remarkable consistency in what people say without having talked to each other in that moment of relief when their face changes. So the majority of them will say, it usually starts with, “it’s weird, but…” And then they will say one of the following things: they’ll say, it feels like I have a thousand pound weight that’s just been lifted off my chest. Or they’ll say, it feels like the first time that I’ve been in my body for many years. Or they’ll say, it feels like I can see and feel things more acutely than I did before. Or they’ll say, I felt relaxed. And then the next day they’ll say, I slept for the first time inmany, many years. So it’s independent patients that haven’t talked to each other and they have this transformation. And that’s why it’s really hard, even as a person who doesn’t run towards, you know, being a true believer to not be swayed by witnessing that kind of an outcome repeatedly from different people that I’ve known really well, that are not the kind of people that would, you know, spin a tale of how they’re doing after years of suffering. So yeah, it’s really interesting.
Duane France (31:57):
And those things are the things that, you know, can exacerbate a suicidal crisis, right? The insomnia. If I’m not sleeping, if I feel burdened, right. Or if I feel like, you know, I’m not in my own body or I’m not comfortable in my in my environment, you know, all of those things lead to the place where suicide can happen. And so, you know, this is not a treatment for suicide. This is a treatment very specifically for post traumatic stress. Again, I imagine that the 25 veterans that you referred very specifically met the diagnostic criteria for PTS. It wasn’t somebody who was told they have PTS, but it’s really major depressive disorder or something like that. These were people who were diagnosed and had the hyperactivity. And so for the people that have this condition, this works and I think it’s a great match.
Shauna Springer (32:49):
That’s actually my theory as to why, you know, I have the sort of hit rate for those cases. It’s a very small sample size like I said, but I know them. I personally assess them and so I knew, you know, who would be a good fit for this treatment. And you know, he, Dr. Lipov actually doesn’t do this like anybody else in the field, he actually is innovator around his methods. So he’s doing a two block procedure, a sequential block in two different places. And all of the combat veterans that I’ve referred have needed this. Where the first one didn’t do the trick and the second one was really required. So I’m already kind of thinking with him around, you know, how, why it is that maybe two are needed and he has a deep understanding of the physiology of this. And you know why that makes sense physiologically. But yeah, exactly. It’s it’s just the right fit for this treatment makes a huge difference.
Duane France (33:49):
Oh, that’s great. And again, I really appreciate you introducing me to Gene, right? Just the conversation that I had with gene. It was, it was great. Obviously, you know, some people might’ve heard me having some insights. I’ve really thought a lot about that. The anesthesiologist giving me a short lesson on pain which has caused me to change some of my terminology. But it was a really great conversation and I appreciate you connecting me with him.
Duane France (34:16):
And I appreciate everybody for taking the time to check out the show. You can find the show notes for this show veteranmentalhealth.com/stmss05. You can get the links to everything that Gean and Shauna and I talked about on this episode. And you can also find the show notes on military times.com.
Duane France (34:34):
I’d like to thank our sponsors, milMedia Group. They’re a web design and digital media agency with over 25 years of experience in supporting service members, veterans and their families. They specialize in working with startups, small businesses, entrepreneurs, nonprofits and city, state and local governments. As a veteran owned business, they’re uniquely qualified to work with those that want to reach an audience in the military and veteran space. Do you have a dream or a vision they can help you bring it to life and get it in front of your audience? You can contact them at (254) 554-0974 or find them online at www.milmediagroup.com
Shauna Springer (35:09):
Just a reminder that the guests and reflections on this show are for informational purposes only and should not be considered professional advice. While Duane and I are mental health professionals, we are not your mental health professionals. We always recommend that you discuss these things with a licensed clinician
Duane France (35:26):
You can find out more about the work that Shauna’s doing by checking out her latest book, Beyond the Military, a Leader’s Handbook for Warrior Reintegration, and the work that I’m doing with my latest book, Military in the Rear View Mirror. Both are available on Amazon and we’ll have links to those in the show notes.
Duane France (35:41):
and always remember, you can connect with the veteran crisis line by calling (800) 273-8255 and pressing one, chat online with them at veterancrisisline.net or texting, 838255. Thanks again for joining us to talk about Seeking the Military Suicide Solution and make sure to follow Military Times on social media to keep up with the latest shows. Join us next time for another great episode and until then, remember, you’re not alone. Ever.