For 12 weeks beginning in February, I participated in a VA-funded research study on using pregnenolone to address the effects of Gulf War Illness. Every week I would check in with a research associate, either in person or by phone, and answer a series of questions regarding my health and mental faculties. It involved driving to the Durham VA Medical Center about every other week for bloodwork and cognitive testing. I would also often return with a dose of pregnenolone for that week.
The cognitive tests were challenging and the worst part of the study. Bloodwork by comparison was a breeze, but when asked to study images of shapes and mentally rearrange them or to recall a varying, long list of fruits and vegetables I would begin to sweat. I hated those tests especially.
At the end of the study the results were compared to the beginning of the trial and the examining doctor noted no noticeable change in the results. I concurred and glumly thought to myself if my trouble had been worth it even though I either received a placebo or this drug didn’t actually address my issues. I decided it was worth it, if not for me then for everyone who suffers from Gulf War Illness.
A week later, I decided to try using a pregnenolone supplement at the doses I was prescribed them during the trial. This time I did notice a difference! It wasn’t a pleasant one, though. A few times during this experiment I awoke from a light sleep experiencing aural hallucinations. Early one morning, I awoke Kelly with a start, asking if she had just heard a fire truck;s siren warble itself quiet right outside of our house. There was no fire truck, of course, and I went back to bed. Still, it sounded real to my half-asleep, drug-enhanced mind. I soon abandoned the drug, deciding I didn’t need that kind of drama in my life.
I’m signed up for another VA study next month that is sure to answer some questions, though whether those answers are what I hope to hear is anyone’s guess. This upcoming test involves strenuous exercise followed by an MRI and lumbar puncture (a.k.a. a spinal tap). A researcher at Georgetown University believes he has discovered markers of Gulf War Illness. I don’t know at this point if I do have Gulf War Illness or not but the study of course takes non-GWI veterans as well, so either way I will be helping the cause. A lumbar puncture isn’t fun in anyone’s book but I’m taking it for the team in the name of science.