News/Press Releases

Prescribing a Positive Approach for Injured Veterans

By Jennifer Jones

Holbrook, New York, June 7, 2013 – Over the last decade, there has been a sustained level of military activity that has left veterans and families struggling with drug abuse and other addiction related problems. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has regularly been in the headlines and although medical findings are not conclusive, the impact on veterans and families is well documented. Some of the symptoms have been treated through the prescribing of medication which in certain cases is successful at controlling symptoms but in other cases has caused further dependency issues.

2010 Nepal Expedition

Participation in sporting events like World T.E.A.M. Sports’ 2010 Nepal Expedition provides a positive approach for veterans following injuries sustained in active duty. Photograph copyright 2010, Didrik Johnck.

Additionally, veterans who have suffered life changing injuries that require medication have also found themselves dependent on the usage of drugs to alleviate and manage pain and can find themselves with issues that if left undiagnosed can cause problems later in life. The 2008 Department of Defense Health Behavior Survey reported an increase in heavy alcohol use and that prescription drug abuse “… doubled among U.S. military personnel from 2002 to 2005 and almost tripled between 2005 and 2008.”

The Power of Sports

Richard Brown, professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University and director of addictions research at Butler Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island says that “We must consider the question of whether people are predisposed to having an addictive personality; but they have simply chosen the wrong thing to become addicted to.”

Brown conducted a study whereby he asked a group of alcoholic participants to work-out together once a week. The group was split into two teams. The first team conducted their workout only on the single session, whereas the second team worked-out a further two or three days per week. At the end of a three-month follow-up, the researchers found the team that had worked out the greater number of times had fewer drinking days and fewer heavy-drinking days than the team that didn’t exercise as regularly. When challenged whether the participants had simply switched from one addiction to another, Brown replied: “One of those addictions leads to basically a devastation throughout all aspects of your life and probably premature death, the other addiction leads to improved cardiovascular health, better self-esteem, better self-efficacy and maybe some joint problems when you get older.”

The study illustrates that the power of exercise can allow addicts a greater sense of hope and increase the likelihood of being able to achieve great things in the future.

Sea to Shining Sea riders in Nevada.

Veterans in the 2012 Sea to Shining Sea ride gained a sense of teamwork during their cross-country ride. Here, they ride through Nevada’s high desert. Photograph by Parker Feierbach.

World T.E.A.M. Sports shares this philosophy in the healing power of sporting endeavor and team participation for both physical and mental benefit. The setting of goals that seem impossible to reach can be daunting but World T.E.A.M. Sports provides the sort of inspiration and assistance needed to allow participants to achieve more than they ever thought possible. Recent expeditions to the summit of Kilimanjaro illustrate that with the right level of help and reassurance from World T.E.A.M. Sports‘ network of dedicated professionals and volunteers; exceptional personal targets can and are achieved.

The Power of Nutrition

Stimulant use, such as cocaine and crack is known to reduce appetite, which often leads to significant weight loss and in turn a body starved of essential nutrients. The over-use of prescription medication such as opioids also causes similar symptoms. Abusers of drugs don’t tend to sleep regularly and may stay up for several days at a time, all of which can add to difficulties when a user is trying to return to a normal daily pattern and a healthy diet. This predicament may also leave the drug user with an imbalance of electrolytes (such as sodium, potassium, and chloride) which are required to give the body the charge that keeps the heart, nervous system and our muscles working efficiently, and are essential for all active bodies. According to Runners Connect, electrolyte imbalance symptoms include: “muscle spasms, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, constipation, dark urine, decreased urine output, dry mouth and foul breath, dry skin, muscle weakness or stiff and achy joints.”

Obviously, dealing with the addiction that is stripping your body of nutrients and electrolytes is the first task; and this can be achieved through established treatments or, for many patients, sporting endeavor is an appropriate and successful method of dealing with the addiction and restoring the body’s natural balance.

Physical activity, in whatever shape and form is a valuable tool in helping to treat the many forms of mental and substance addiction. Its’ healing properties are becoming more widely recognized as a realistic option for treating patients to improve health, well-being and to build confidence and self-respect. Its’ benefits are part of the core set of values that World T.E.A.M. Sports embraces in activities across the country.

Jennifer Jones is a Denver freelance writer and a mother of two. When not writing, she spends as much time as she can in the garden or walking her dogs, though most people agree, they walk her.

2013 Face of America rest stop.

During the 2013 Face of America ride, participants had a variety of healthy food choices at frequent rest stops. Photograph by Richard Rhinehart.