Medications for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included. Ask your doctor if you need to take any special safety measures. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.
Studies have shown that certain medications can help to ease symptoms of
in people with PTSD. More research is being done on drugs that target the biological changes of PTSD.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
Common names include:
SSRIs affect the concentration of serotonin, a neurotransmitter. This is a brain chemical that plays a role in depression and anxiety. SSRIs have been used to treat depression and anxiety. They are often considered the first-line medication to treat PTSD. Paroxetine and Sertraline have been approved by the FDA to treat PTSD. Improvement is usually seen in four to six weeks after beginning treatment.
Possible side effects include:
- Sexual difficulties
- Weight gain
- Risk of severe mood and behavior changes, including suicidal thoughts in some patients (Young adults may be at a higher risk for this side effect.)
Alpha and Beta-blockers
Common names include:
Alpha and beta-blockers are heart medications that treat blood pressure. They are sometimes used to treat symptoms of anxiety like sweating and trembling. Prazosin has also been effective for treating nightmares associated with PTSD. Possible side effects include:
- Cold hands
- Low blood pressure
Additional Classes of Medications
The following medications have shown some benefit for those with PTSD:
- Venlafaxine (a selective norandrenergic reputake inhibitor)
- Risperidone (an antipsychotic medication)
If medication is helpful, most people with acute PTSD (less than 3 months) will continue to take it for 6-12 months. People with chronic PTSD usually take medication from 12-24 months. They are slowly taken off medication. If symptoms return after medication is stopped, your doctor may recommend that you resume taking the medication for a longer period of time.
If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:
- Take your medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
- Do not stop taking them without talking to your doctor.
- Do not share them.
- Know what results and side effects to expect. Report them to your doctor.
- Some drugs can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one drug. This includes over-the-counter medication and herb or dietary supplements.
- Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.
When to Contact Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if:
- You have any side effects that bother you
- You feel that you are not getting results from your medications after the normal “waiting period”
- You have further questions about usage or side effects
Call for emergency help if you have any thoughts of self-injury or suicide
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