Those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) face challenges in completing normal daily activities. Flashbacks can come on suddenly, and sleep problems can make nights very long.
A recent observational study finds that it may be possible to effectively treat the symptoms of PTSD with conventional medications for blood pressure. These medications for blood pressure are called angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB) and they may be options for helping victims of PTSD.
The study, provides evidence that those exposed to traumas who are also taking the blood pressure medications tend to experience less intense symptoms of PTSD.
Associate Professor of behavioral sciences and psychiatry, Kerry Ressler, MD, PhD, from the Emory University School of Medicine and researcher at Yerkes National Primate Research Center is the senior author of the study.
Ressler explains that the findings come from an observational study, which does not provide the same evidence that can be gained from a placebo-controlled, double-blind trial. However, this study provides a springboard for a more in-depth study.
The medications associated with reduced symptoms of PTSD have been used widely to treat hypertension for many years and the safety testing has been extensive. The opportunity to use the same medications as a treatment for PTSD is not far off if the same results can be duplicated in a larger study.
The data was gathered from the Grady Trauma Project, involving 5,000 Atlanta residents from low-income neighborhoods. Individuals living in the community experience a high level of trauma as a result of violence, as well as sexual and physical abuse. This results in high numbers of individuals diagnosed with PTSD.
For the current study, the researchers used information from 505 individuals who had been involved in a traumatic event. Of these participants, approximately 35 percent met criteria used to diagnose PTSD, and approximately 98 were taking blood pressure medications. Twenty-six of the participants took blood pressure medication and were diagnosed with PTSD.
Participants who were taking blood pressure medications that were ARBs or ACE inhibitors reported about a 30 percent reduction in their symptoms of PTSD. No similar differences were found for patients taking other types of blood pressure medication, such as beta-blockers or diuretics.
Patients who were taking ARBs or ACE inhibitors especially reported that their instances of hyper arousal and invasive thoughts were lower than those of other PTSD participants.
The authors of the study note that the findings add support to the understanding of PTSD as having a strong physiological basis. The blood pressure medications like ARBs or ACE inhibitors manipulate a hormone called angiotensin II, which is responsible for regulating blood pressure.
The data from the study suggest that the medications are able to decrease the body’s physical stress response both in the brain and cardiovascular system.