Pentagon tries aroma therapy to ease combat stress

FORT RILEY, Kansas (Reuters) - The U.S. military is experimenting with aroma therapy, acupuncture and other unorthodox methods to treat soldiers traumatized by combat experiences, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Saturday.

He said the experiments showed promise.

Gates touted possible treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during a meeting with the wives of servicemen at Fort Riley, Kansas, when one woman asked him to explain why chiropractic and acupuncture therapies were not covered under her military health care plan.

“We have an experimental unit ... treating soldiers with PTS (post-traumatic stress) and using a number of unorthodox approaches, including aroma therapy, acupuncture, things like that, that really are getting some serious results, and so maybe we can throw that into the hopper as well,” Gates said.

The Pentagon has seen a sharp increase in the number of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder during and after long deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The disorder can cause flashbacks, edginess and emotional numbness. The risk depends on the type of traumatic events a person is exposed to.

A report in the New England Journal of Medicine in January found that U.S. combat soldiers in Iraq who received a shot of the painkiller morphine within an hour of being wounded were less likely to develop the post-traumatic stress disorder.

Reporting by Adam Entous; editing by Todd Eastham