The Curious Case of Service Canines for Wounded Warriors

The Curious Case of Service Canines for Wounded Warriors

OAS Agrees with the VA: Service Dogs Are Heartwarming But Clinical Proof Not As Cuddly

Just as the volume is getting turned up on the Vets mental health issues, a piece PTSD service dog legislation is landing on deaf ears at the VA. And for good reason. The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act, first introduced in 2016 by a nonprofit whose mission was canine service or PTSD therapy dogs, would establish a grant program pairing veterans with psychiatric service dogs. Service dogs are rigorously trained to help their owners cope with stress, anxiety or fear. Read more about PAWS here.

The PAWS Act never went to a vote. It faced stiff resistance from VA officials who said the bill could “result in unintended and negative consequences” for veterans entrusting their well-being to “this unsubstantiated treatment regime. To date, the VA has officially funded 19 canine service dogs.

Unfortunately for our Veterans and their families who endure these service-related issues, that VA’s stance is correct. While more long-term research is being conducted at this time – both reports are expected within 18 months – the verdict appears to be in already. Canine therapy helps in the moment and may even prevent veteran suicide, but the lasting effect fall off quickly. PTSD keeps striking and the dogs keep working, but it doesn’t treat PTSD or the depression. Dogs only interrupt the condition.

The central question the VA is asking of service canines is this: Do service dogs and emotional-support dogs measurably reduce the symptoms of PTSD and improve quality of life. “I would say there are a lot of heartwarming stories that service dogs help, but scientific basis for that claim is lacking,” Dr. Michael Fallon, the V.A.’s chief veterinarian, said during an interview with National Public Radio in 2017. “The V.A. is based on evidence-based medicine. We want people to use therapy that has proven value.”

The Clinical Difference Between the Magic of Dogs and the Effectiveness of Science

As reported in this blog post, the effectiveness of any depression medication is measured by the V.A.’s standardized PTSD symptom checklist known as the DSM-5 (PCL-5) scale. A 2018 Purdue University study of 73 veterans reported that the Vets tested out with an average of a 12-point drop in their PTSD score. Kerri Rodriguez, one of the co-authors on the study, said, “While not a cure for PTSD, we found service dogs are an effective complementary treatment that have significant effects on multiple areas of life.”

The average PTSD score after 2 hours of a Ketamine IV microdosing treatment is a drop of 33. After the 2-weeks, it only needs regular “top offs” to stay there.

A 2016 review of available literature about the treatment found that most studies “endorsed canine assistance for PTSD in veterans as a promising modality” but called for more research. Meanwhile, ketamine-based treatments show fast-acting and lasting results. See the full resources of the testing here.

Meanwhile, the PAWS Act has been reintroduced by Florida Republican John Rutherford in 2019. Rutherford, in whose district resides K9s for Warriors, the nation’s leading service dog provider. The headwinds from the VA are again proving too much for PAWS to gain traction, so the future of this grant-establishing legislation remains uncertain. If passed, it provides the canine service-based nonprofits, with K9s for Warrior probably first in line, $25,000 to train the dog and the Vet to work and live together.

“I’ve had multiple veterans come up to me and tell me that they would have probably committed suicide but for being paired with a service dog,” said Ron DeSantis, formerly a congressional representative from Florida and now the state’s governor.

Lower Costs and Lower PTSD Scores Are Out There

Using the same test, veterans diagnosed with drug-resistant depression and PTSD have been tested using the out of patent drug ketamine. Since 1998, ketamine has been off-patent and available for commercial exploitation for better or for worse. Besides being what puts you out for surgery in every hospital in America and beyond, ketamine in micro-dose has the clinical scores to make it a real contender for the PTSD-killer drug we need. The problem is that because it is out of patent, there’s no money to be made by big pharma to take the risk to develop something that will automatically become available as a low-cost generic.

Clinical trials and their findings, many of which can be found here, report a far greater reduction in suicidal thoughts within hours of the first treatment. And treatments last two weeks with occasional “top offs” to keep the depression at bay. As for the costs, that same $25,000 per service dog and veteran team could treat 3-4 veterans with what the science shows is our best “cure” to date.

As more and more money finds its way into the treatment of PTSD, the rise of promising treatments will rise, too. Once a Soldier would urge that while dogs and vets seems to go together very well, in the long run, it’s a second best therapy at best.


Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.

The Promise of Ketamine for PTSD

The Promise of Ketamine for PTSD

Step Inside a Veteran-Run Ketamine IV Drip PTSD Therapy Clinic

The future for PTSD treatment looks bright – so let’s get right to it. Our focus will be on the drug ketamine and how micro-dosing with certified and trained professionals is a promising PTSD-killer.

Ketamine is an anesthetic used in every OR in the world. Low doses given via IV are showing fast-acting and lasting results for suicidal and depressed veterans. 

Other non-pharmaceutical drugs like marijuana and magic mushrooms are also showing great promise, but until there are some big changes in the stigmas and Schedule 1 classifications defining them, ketamine will probably be the first game-changer to hit the mass market. In fact, thanks to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approving it as a prescription treatment for depression in May 2019, it’s already out there.

Check this blog post for a timeline of the latest treatments.

A Wealth of Research Riches

Ketamine PTSD Clinical Research Data Sources

From Google Scholar – a library of links to clinical trials papers


Lawmakers and PTSD Therapy – An Unlikely Meeting Place

On Capitol Hill, the plight of veterans suffering from PTSD who are killing themselves is getting more attention than ever. Trying to solve the puzzle of PTSD and veteran suicide enjoys bi-partisan support from legislators as diverse as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL) who served a decade at the head of the as the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Common ground is akin to Holy ground these days in Congress, so this is real progress.

Short History of PTSD Therapy

Before we move forward, let’s take a step back with some historical context:

Ketamine came off patent in 1960, meaning that just like how music and movies enter into the public domain, anyone can make their version of and make money from it.

In March 2019, after many clinical trials like this one from 2014 by the Mayo Clinic, the FDA approved a ketamine nasal spray for those who are classified with treatment-resistant depression. This spray is marketed under the name of Spravato and made by Johnson & Johnson. Both promising and falling short on that promise, the drug hasn’t outperformed the placebo.

As you’ll see, the reason is because the spray only uses half the molecule. PTSD micro-dosing via IV beats the spray in results and it is our position that lawmakers need to revise the old laws that are out of touch with today’s medical advancements.

Brian Hogan, Director at Sunbelt Wellness Clinic

Brian Hogan, Director at Sunbelt Wellness Institute, is on the front lines of ketamine-infused PTSD therapy. As a Navy veteran himself, Mr. Hogan’s heart and mind are in the right place for this big challenge.

OAS: What is it about the spray, Spravato, that could be better?
Brian Hogan: It’s a great start and we’re happy to see the FDA’s approval of it. It really is going to open up a lot of doors for people suffering with PTSD and those veterans killing themselves over it.

On the downside, like you said, it’s just as effective as the placebo, so that could be better. One of the reasons it that Spravato is the ketamine molecule chopped in half. While this will reduce side effects, it also limits effectiveness. Ketamine is the whole molecule. This increase hasn’t impacted the side effects. We haven’t seen the anxiety during a treatment that was predicted.

Second, the price is approximately $7,500 for initial treatments. That’s just for the medication, not including monitoring and in time in a facility. We’re about half that cost.

PTSD Treatments

OAS: Okay, tell me about the treatments.

Brian Hogan: First off, the micro-dosing has shown to be non-addictive, unlike opioids. And there’s only 6 treatments required for most patients to test low and stay low on the PCL5 scale of “how depressed are you?”

We administer the drip in a regular IV bag. The ketamine is mixed with saline, it’s delivered through a pump, and the infusion lasts about 40 minutes. The experience for the patient is that they’re sitting in a reclining easy chair listening to music on headphones with a registered and certified nurse, in our case all Navy-trained veterans, by their side.

These micro-doses also don’t sedate patient. They’re easily aroused from whatever state of mind they’re back to the here and now.

OAS: Can you describe the patient’s state of mind during the session and how it actually helps them deal with their PTSD?
Brian Hogan: This is the interesting part and why there’s so much attention on the results. To start with, the medication plays with their mind in terms of the passage of time. To them, their forty-minute sessions seems to have passed in just five minutes.

How they deal with their PTSD has been described as a three-part meeting between them, their memory of the experiences, and a distance between the two that gives them the new perspective they’ve needed. This feeling of being out of their body enables them to feel safe as they deal with the problems.

For some, PTSD is described as a negative thought that comes in and just sits there. Then poof, it’s turned into a cloud and is gone. Pretty mind blowing.

 Ketamine Drips are Fast-Acting and Lasting Relief

OAS: I read about fast-acting results, but what have you seen in your clinic working with the veterans?
Brian Hogan: The clinical term for these kinds of drugs is Rapidly Acting Antidepressants, or RADS. Ketamine falls into this category. In our practice, they have tested out with same-day results that we’re overjoyed with. As are our veterans.

If the patient comes in with suicidality, they get an immediate ketamine infusion and it works. Most patients report a 70% lift two hours after their treatment.

OAS: Can you provide us with some of the data behind that?
Brian Hogan: The way that depression is measured is via something called a DCM5 checklist. It has 20 itemized questions that ask about feelings of depression and suicide. They are then transformed into a number scale from the National Center for PTSD to give us a guide, called the PCL5 scale that lets us know how severe their depression is.

PTSD-infused has shown a 33.3 reduction on scales using PCL5 scale. That’s a significant reduction.

In anecdotal terms, our patients have reported that after the very first treatment, 70% of our patients feel better, after the second treatment feel 85% feel better, and after the third treatment, they level off or rise up a small amount.

OAS: How long are they one this drug and how long is each session?
Brian Hogan: Our initial consultation lasts about 30 minutes. Treatments last 40 minutes. During that time, patients are accompanied by one of our certified registered nurse aestheticians who administer the IV and monitor the session.

OAS: Micro-dosing is a new term in the vocabulary of PTSD treatments. What does that mean for ketamine?
Brian Hogan: Most of the staff here are veterans and work in our community’s medical centers in surgery centers and ORs. Micro-dosing for us translates into using 1,000 less of a dose than you would get for anesthesia for surgery. To be more precise, our vets receive a range of .5 -.7mg over a 40 minute session. That’s a micro-dose.

OAS: People know some of the more popular depression drugs like Zoloft, Prozac and Paxil. How is ketamine different from them?
Brian Hogan: If you’re clinically depressed, you get put on a class of medications called Serotonergic anti-depressions (SSRI). For most of the patients, two-thirds of them, one of those you listed, or the other five or so you didn’t list, will give them meaningful results.

If you don’t respond to those drugs, you are what we call “depression drug resistant.” Now it’s time to try the pMDMA receptors

Keta plays on the glutamate pathway. It’s a different neural pathway taken but for some people, it’s the one that gives them relief.

Next time we’ll speak with some of the patients of Sunbelt Wellness Clinic and hear from them their results and what it’s like to micro-dose and confront your worst fears.

Additional Research re: Ketamine + PTSD Sources

From Google Scholar – a library of links to clinical trials papers



Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.

Sunbelt Wellness Institute Ketamine-Infused PTSD Clinic

Sunbelt Wellness Institute Ketamine-Infused PTSD Clinic

Jacksonville Clinic Sees Encouraging Results Now and Promise for the Future

Treatment-Resistant Mood Disorders Have New Hope in Ketamine PTSD Therapy

If the name Ketamine sounds vaguely familiar to you, you might be thinking about the street drug Special K. Yes, they’re the same thing, but in multiple trials this drug has found a new life in the most amazingly helpful way.


 Sunbelt Wellness can be reached at (904) 328-6749

Not Just for Veterans

One-third depressed people don’t benefit from traditional treatments. Luckily, with the relaxation and reclassifications of some drugs, new therapies are showing great results and greater promise. We are happy to feature a local Jacksonville treatment center, veteran run, that is living proof of the benefits for PTSD victims.

Sunbelt Wellness Institute offers a customized cost-effective treatment regimen of Ketamine Infusion therapy, for clients suffering from treatment resistant depression, bipolar depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicidal ideations and other resistant mood disorders. This therapy has also been effective in chronic pain conditions including complex regional pain syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraines and cluster headaches.

Interview with Dr. Kalynych and Dr. Hogan


Most medications prescribed for treatment-resistant mood disorders and chronic pain work by changing the amount of specific neurotransmitters, chemical messengers, in the brain. The side effects of these medications can be debilitating.

Ketamine works in a different way. IVKT triggers a cascade of events in the brain, temporarily blocking the activation of certain chemical receptors in the brain and signaling other pathways. Ketamine works on NMDA receptors, producing a protein that causes rapid growth of new neural connections, or “rewiring” of the brain. This rewiring effect leads to the antidepressant and anti-inflammatory benefits of IVKT.

Intravenous infusion is the Gold Standard for Ketamine therapy and is widely supported in published clinical studies.


Conditions Treated

PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.

It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger.

Symptoms include flashbacks, bad dreams, recurring thoughts, avoidance behaviors, hyperarousal, agitation, cognitive difficulties, and mood disorders. PTSD is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or one or more of the other anxiety disorders.

Not every traumatized person develops ongoing (chronic) or even short-term (acute) PTSD. Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some experiences, like the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, can also cause PTSD. Symptoms usually begin early, within 3 months of the traumatic incident, but sometimes they begin years afterward. The course of the illness varies. Some people recover within 6 months, while others have symptoms that last much longer. In some people, the condition becomes chronic.

Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe
symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed
with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.

Some forms of depression are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances, such as: Persistent depressive disorder, Postpartum depression, Psychotic depression, Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and Bipolar disorder.


Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. These disorders affect how we feel and behave and can cause physical symptoms.

The term “anxiety disorder” refers to specific psychiatric disorders that involve extreme fear or worry, and includes generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder and panic attacks, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, selective mutism, separation anxiety, and specific phobias. Anxiety disorders are real, serious medical conditions – just as real and serious as physical disorders such as heart disease or diabetes. Anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive mental disorders in the United States.

Suicidal thoughts, or suicidal ideation, means thinking about or planning suicide.Thoughts can range from a detailed plan to a fleeting consideration. It does not include the final act of suicide.

Suicidal thoughts are common, and many people experience them when they are undergoing stress or experiencing depression. In most cases, these are temporary and can be treated, but in some cases, they place the individual at risk for attempting or completing suicide.

Most people who experience suicidal ideation do not carry it through, although some may make suicide attempts. Causes of suicidal thoughts can include depression, anxiety, eating disorders such as anorexia, and substance abuse. People with a family history of mental illness are more likely to have suicidal thoughts.

A person who is experiencing or could experience suicidal thoughts may show the following signs or symptoms:

feeling or appearing to feel trapped or hopeless; feeling intolerable emotional pain; having mood swings, either happy or sad; being agitated, or in a heightened state of anxiety; experiencing changes in personality, routine, or sleeping patterns; consuming drugs or more alcohol than usual, or starting drinking when they had not previously done so; engaging in risky behavior, such as driving carelessly or taking drugs; experiencing depression, panic attacks, impaired concentration, and more.


Chronic pain is often defined as any pain lasting more than 12 weeks. Whereas acute pain is a normal sensation that alerts us to possible injury, chronic pain is very different. Chronic pain persists—often for months or even longer. Chronic pain may arise from an initial injury, such as a back sprain, or there may be an ongoing cause, such as illness. However, there may also be no clear cause. Other health problems, such as fatigue, sleep disturbance, decreased appetite, and mood changes, often accompany chronic pain. Chronic pain may limit a person’s movements, which can reduce flexibility, strength, and stamina. This difficulty in carrying out important and enjoyable activities can lead to disability and despair.