Sometimes therapy alone isn’t an effective PTSD treatment. In order to treat the range of PTSD symptoms, PTSD medications may be necessary.
SSRI Medications for PTSD
Selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a category of antidepressants, are a commonly prescribed PTSD medication. SSRIs used for PTSD treatment include fluoxetine (ProzacÂ©), paroxetine (PaxilÂ®) and sertraline (ZoloftÂ©).
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a brain chemical that helps brain cells communicate. It’s associated with depression and the regulation of mood and behavior. SSRIs block the re-absorption of serotonin by certain brain cells, allowing higher amounts of this neurotransmitter to remain in the brain.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved SSRIs as a treatment for PTSD. These drugs are helpful in relieving symptoms of PTSD such as anxiety, depression and panic, and may also reduce aggression, impulsivity and suicidal impulses.
Mood Stabilizers and Anti-Psychotics
People with PTSD symptoms that include agitation, breaks with reality, dissociation, hyper-vigilance and paranoia are sometimes prescribed mood stabilizers or mood stabilizer/antipsychotics. Some mood stabilizers used to treat PTSD include divaproex sodium (DepakoteÂ®), lamotrigine (LamictalÂ®) and iagabine (GabitrilÂ®).
Mood stabilizer/antipsychotics include olanzapine (ZyprexaÂ®), quetiapine (SeroquelÂ®) and risperidone (RisperdalÂ®).
Other Medicines for PTSD
In addition to emotional symptoms, PTSD can cause physical symptoms as well. To relieve these, doctors sometimes prescribe medicines that lower blood pressure and/or relieve heart pain or neurologic conditions, including clonidine (CatapresÂ®), guanfacine or propranolol.
People with recurring nightmares may be given prazosin. Normally used to treat hypertension, this drug also reduces nightmares in many PTSD patients.
PTSD and Medications: Hope for the Future
In 2010, the results of a small study conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies were published in Scientific American. The study, which involved 21 PTSD sufferers, indicated that MDMA, the active ingredient in the illegal drug Ecstasy, may be effective in treating the disorder. Thirteen people received MDMA, while a control group of eight subjects took a placebo. All participants received psychiatric counseling.
MDMA sessions lasted up to eight hours each, under the supervision of trained psychiatrists. Most of the group receiving MDMA had almost no PTSD symptoms after a few sessions. The researchers believe that MDMA activates certain chemicals in the brain, resulting in more effective PTSD therapy.
Results of this study were so encouraging, that seven of the eight participants receiving placebos later opted to try MDMA treatment. While MDMA is promising as a future treatment of PTSD, it remains an illegal drug and should only be used under the careful supervision of an experienced doctor.
Dryden-Edwards, M.D. (2010). Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Retrieved July 6, 2010, from: http://www.medicinenet.com/posttraumatic_stress_disorder/article.htm.
Mayo Clinic. (2008). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Retrieved July 6, 2010, from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ssris/MH00066.
Mayo Clinic. (2009). Post-traumatic stress disorder.Retrieved July 9, 2010 from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/post-traumatic-stress-disorder.
Vastag, B. (2010). Can the peace drug help clean up the war mess? Retrieved July 9, 2010 from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=mdma-drug-ptsd-trauma-psychedelic.