Well-known PTSD drug may worsen symptoms

Tauren Dyson
Nearly 8 million Americans suffer from PTSD. Photo by
Nearly 8 million Americans suffer from PTSD. Photo by

Nov. 19 (UPI) -- A drug once thought to reduce PTSD symptoms and suicidal thoughts could actually worsen those symptoms, a study said.

A study published in the December edition of the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology examined 20 patients who received PTSD drug Prazosin for eight weeks to cure them of suicidal thoughts.


Two of the patients in that group required emergency inpatient psychiatric care, though none of them attempted suicide during the study.

Nearly 8 million people in the United States suffer from PTSD, according to the National Institutes of Health.

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"It did not seem to do much for suicidal ideation and that was somewhat disappointing, but the thing what was mind-blowing was that is actually worsened nightmares," W. Vaughn McCall, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, said in a statement. "Maybe it's not for everybody." He notes that with PTSD, a patient's nightmares often focus on the trauma that produced the disorder.

These results comes after a study from earlier this year showed that Prazosin brought on new or worsened suicidal thoughts in 8 percent of military veterans it studied who suffered from PTSD symptoms.


"We need to reconcile how is it that we had 10 years of data saying Prazosin is good for nightmares in PTSD, a big study this February indicating it has essentially no affect and now a smaller study showing it can worsen some aspects," McCall said. "We need to know what it all means."

Researchers have drawn a connection between insomnia, nightmares and suicidal thoughts and behavior.

Part of the confusion over Prazosin's effectiveness comes from earlier studies suggesting the drug suppressed PTSD symptoms.

One study from 2013 observed active duty soldiers found that Prazosin suppressed PTSD symptoms in active duty soldiers.

To date, veterans dealing with PTSD symptoms have limited options for drug therapies. Sertraline and Paroxetine are the only Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs on the market to treat the condition, and neither is regarded as effective.

"I think we have to view this as not the final word on this, but it raises questions," McCall said.

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