Despite its promise, SGB is available at only 12 of the 172 VA hospitals. It's still considered experimental. The army's study is the first clinical trial for SGB with a placebo. Over 100 active duty soldiers with PTSD participated, and it's now under peer review. If the anecdotal success of SGB is duplicated, it could revolutionize the way PTSD is treated.
For now, most veterans rely on word of mouth to find private clinics, like this one run by Dr. Sean Mulvaney, a former Navy seal.
Among military doctors, he was the first to see SGB's potential, especially after his years as a combat medic for special operations soldiers.
Dr. Sean Mulvaney: We asked them to go do a dirty job. We didn't tell them what gonna happen to them. We didn't tell them we were gonna break them.
Dakota Meyer, a former Marine corporal, sought Dr. Mulvaney's help. In 2011, he was the first living Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam war.
Dr. Mulvaney stumbled onto SGB 10 years ago.
He'd read a newspaper article about a treatment for – of all things – hot flashes -- that targeted the same nerve signals that ptsd disrupts. So he tried it. Since then he's done about 1000 injections: he found 70 per cent of the soldiers he treated had reduced anxiety and paranoia.
Dakota Meyer: Like I can breathe. Like I can actually breathe, it's crazy.
Dr. Mulvaney is hoping the results of the Army's clinical trial will make SGB more widely available.
Dr. Sean Mulvaney: These people, they wrote a blank check to their nation that included their life. And, as citizens, we need to help them when they come home, when they're broken.
Johnathan Zehring also found his way to Dr. Mulvaney for an SGB.
John Zehring: I felt like a brand new man. And when I say brand new man, what I mean was I had a control of my feelings. And it was like I was my own self, my old self, I was John Zehring, pre-combat again.
After the shot, Zehring found something else had changed too: he had a different attitude toward therapy.
John Zehring: It does not eliminate you having PTSD. It does not make it so you no longer went through those traumatic experiences. But what it does, is it makes it so you're not drowning. It gives you a little bit of room. It gives you room to go get therapy. It gives you room to get help.
Don Bolduc: I think there's enough evidence out there that this is a valid therapy. And it's something that works.
Former Brigadier General Donald Bolduc had an SGB injection when he was commander of special operations in Africa. It made such a difference that in 2016 he became the first, and so far, the only, active duty senior officer to admit that he too suffered from PTSD. It took him eight years to overcome the stigma.
Bill Whitaker: Do you remember this soldier?
Don Bolduc: I certainly do. Marine Special Operations.
A former Green Beret, Bolduc showed us a memorial in his office to the 72 soldiers he lost over 10 deployments. He cheated death himself numerous times, surviving firefights, a 2,000 pound bomb, and this helicopter crash which knocked him unconscious.
Bill Whitaker: What was it like to be around him during that time?
Sharon Bolduc: You just don't know what's coming. You don't know what's gonna set him off.
It was his wife Sharon who finally made bolduc confront his PTSD. Get help, she said, or she and the children would leave him.
Sharon Bolduc: I'm done. I can't do this by myself anymore. I didn't marry you to become a single parent.
Bolduc had tried traditional therapy with little relief. It was the SGB, he told us, that finally lifted the fog.
Don Bolduc: It's magnificent. Everything was crisper and clearer.
Sharon Bolduc: He was so much more relaxed, like--
Don Bolduc: So nice.
Sharon Bolduc: So I think I even said, "Why didn't we do this years ago?" (LAUGHTER) You know? But I don't think we knew about it.
Don Bolduc: No.
Now retired, Bolduc told us he was bypassed for a promotion. Part of the reason, he believes, is his outspokenness about PTSD among active duty soldiers.
Don Bolduc: Not one of my superiors reached out to me. One told me that it's not gonna bode well for me, and recommended that I stop talking about it because the more I talk about it, the more problems they have.
Bill Whitaker: It's so widespread in the military today, but yet there's this stigma.
Don Bolduc: Terrible stigma. Lack of understanding. Not understanding the science behind it, not understanding what's happening.
Bill Whitaker: So how important is stellate ganglion block in fighting post-traumatic stress?
Don Bolduc: I think it's hugely important and I think that it needs to be an intervention that's part of every post-traumatic stress therapy.
Part of Bolduc's therapy is Victor, his service dog, who helps him stay calm.
Bolduc continues to speak out, and tells audiences all over the country that treatment for PTSD should carry no more stigma than a broken ankle.
Don Bolduc: You are strong when you ask for help, not weak. You are strong. So don't be afraid to ask for help no matter what it is.
Johnathan Zehring told us SGB was a game changer. Henry Coto said he wished other veterans could find the relief he did.
Henry Coto: I've lost a couple friends to suicide. You know and just thinking that, you know, this treatment, if it's was widely available, you know, those guys could've been around.
John Zehring: I've never had this relief before. There never wasn't a pill. It wasn't a bottle of alcohol. It was a shot in my heck that I've never heard of that lasted maybe-- a 15-minute procedure. And it helped me.
Produced by Heather Abbott