New PTSD treatment could help regulate sleep

Luke Ryan and Patrick Hawkins were best friends. Both were Army Rangers and served side by side on every mission during four deployments to Afghanistan.

"I went on just over 100 missions, that's not getting into a firefight every single mission, but certainly I saw my fair share of those too," described Luke. 

After their final mission in 2013, both made their way back to the U.S., just not the way they had hoped. "I got sent home early on that last deployment to escort my friend's body back."

Hawkins and three others -- Cody Patterson, Jenny Moreno, and Joe Peters -- all lost their lives in a series of 12 bomb blasts. Twenty-five others were injured including Luke, who suffered a traumatic brain injury. He was physically injured, and emotionally wounded. It would take months for him to recognize the psychological scars.

"I had trouble sleeping, falling asleep. You know, I'd stay awake for several hours," he says.

Luke was diagnosed with PTSD. An online ad led him to a clinical trial testing Tonmya, an experimental medication containing the active ingredient cyclobenzaprine. Cyclobenzaprine is also in Flexeril a drug used to treat muscle spasms.

"In much smaller doses and administered in a different way than it has previously been administered, it helps to regulate sleep and improve the quality of sleep," said Psychiatrist Dr. Kelley Yokum with Olympian Clinical Research in Tampa.

She says the drug melts under the tongue, so it is rapidly absorbed and leaves the bloodstream quickly.

"You wouldn't have that morning hangover. It's not going to knock anyone out, it's not a sleep medicine but it does improve the overall sleep quality and the overall PTSD symptoms," she added.

Unfortunately, Luke did not qualify for the study, but he is getting help.

"The mistake that I made is that I thought I knew what was going on in my head and I didn't," he said.

Even though his memories will last a lifetime, he hopes others won’t suffer in silence.

"For most people it's a quiet burden that they carry and they're going to carry it realistically for the rest of their lives," Luke added.

Veterans with PTSD who would like to see if they qualify for the study can visit www.thehonorstudy.com.

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