Benzodiazepines ineffective, possibly harmful for PTSD

The drugs may also induce PTSD in people who have recently experienced trauma.
By Stephen Feller  |  July 14, 2015 at 5:20 PM
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DAYTON, Ohio, July 14 (UPI) -- Benzodiazepines have little effect on the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and could make symptoms worse, according to a large study of data on treatment for the disorder.

Researchers also found that benzodiazepines may cause PTSD in people who have recently been in a traumatic situation may cause PTSD.

"Benzodiazepines might be effective if they selectively inhibited the stress and anxiety centers of the brain that are often hyperactive in PTSD," said Dr. Jeffrey Guina, a researcher at Wright State University, in a press release. "Instead, they indiscriminately target the entire brain -- including areas that are already hypoactive in PTSD, such as the cognitive and memory centers."

Benzodiazepines are often used for anxiety, amnesia, seizures and as premedications for medical and dental procedures. They are largely considered safe for short term use, but have been found to have effects on cognitive abilities and can cause aggression, panic and agitation.

The researchers looked at 18 studies that included more than 5,200 people who survived more than one trauma, including life-threatening medical conditions, combat-related trauma, and disasters. They found, based on 12 of the studies, that benzodiazepines were associated with no improvement in PTSD outcomes.

Reasearchers found people who had recently gone through traumatic experiences were two to five times more likely to develop PTSD if given benzodiazepines.

"Evidence-based trauma-focused psychotherapies require that patients experience and then master anxiety," researchers wrote in the study, which is published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice. "Benzodiazepines can impair that experience by numbing emotions, decreasing learning efficiency, and inhibiting memory processing of material learned in therapy."

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