Treating PTSD with Medicines

"Medicines seem to help about 50% of people with PTSD," says Michael Roy, MD, Col. (Ret.). "But I see them as a band-aid; they can smooth things over but they don't deal with or help solve the underlying causes."

See more video clips with Dr. Michael Roy.

[Dr. Michael Roy] Treatment for PTSD—current treatment includes medications— pharmacotherapy—antidepressants. There are some other classes of medicines that help with certain symptoms— like there's Prazosin, which is actually something we've used for decades to treat high blood pressure. Also, it treats enlarged prostate in men. It was kind of serendipitously found to help prevent nightmares. At a VA out in Washington State, some veteran started coming in and saying, "Gee. That medicine you gave me for my prostate— it's really helping prevent my nightmares." These were Vietnam vets. So the investigator said, "Ahh. That's interesting." So it's been looked at. It actually helps prevent the nightmares with PTSD. So there are some medicines that help with either certain symptoms or help with PTSD at large. But if you look at the best studies, the medicines work for maybe 40% to 60% of patients. So figure maybe half of those with PTSD will get better with the medicines that we have. So that's not great. I mean, it's not bad, and you still have half who have persistent symptoms despite the use of medicines. Another problem is that when you stop the medicines, often the symptoms come back, so there's often relapse. So I kind of view medicines as more of a Band-Aid approach. You're covering up the wound, but you're not necessarily taking it away— dealing with what actually is the cause of those symptoms.
Posted on BrainLine May 28, 2013.

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough, Justin Rhodes, and Erica Queen, BrainLine.