Medications for PTSD: PTSD Monthly Update - July 2015

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PTSD Monthly Update

In This Issue

Feature Topic

For Providers

For VA Providers

Research at the Center

PTSD in the News

July 2015 Issue


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Feature Topic

Medications for PTSD

Image of a hand with a pen, drawing a group of people in front of two doors, one with the word Therapist and the other, Medications.

While psychotherapy, sometimes called "counseling", has been shown to be the most effective treatment for PTSD, certain medications have also been proven to help decrease many of the core symptoms. These medications can be used alone, or in combination with psychotherapy.

What Medications Work Best?

Recommended medications for PTSD are called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) or Selective Norepinephrine/Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs). They are both types of antidepressant medicine. These can help you feel less sad, worried, and improve your overall functioning. SSRIs include sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil) or fluoxetine (such as Prozac), and the SNRI venlafaxine (Effexor).

How Do These Medications Work?


Chemicals in your brain affect the way you think and feel. For example, when you have symptoms such as sadness, fatigue or insomnia, you may not have enough of a chemical called serotonin. SSRIs raise the level of serotonin in your brain to help you feel better and improve your quality of life.

Is Medication is Right for Me?

Talk to your health care provider about which medications are right for you. Learn about options, what you need to know before taking medications, and potential side effects (video).

Should I be Cautious about Certain Medications?

Some doctors have prescribed medications known as benzodiazepines for patients with PTSD to help with symptoms such as anxiety or insomnia. These medications may be known as Valium, Xanax, Klonopin or Ativan.

Benzodiazepines may help these symptoms in the short term, but we now know that they do not improve the overall symptoms of PTSD. Their helpful effects do not last and they come with possible safety concerns.

Atypical antipsychotics are another class of medication occasionally used for symptoms of PTSD. They also can have concerning side effects and are not typically recommended to treat PTSD.

What Medications Can I Take to Improve my Insomnia or Anxiety?

The first-line medication recommendations for PTSD, the antidepressants, are effective in treating your anxiety and insomnia symptoms. You also can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy. Talk to your provider about safer, more effective treatment options.

Prazosin is a medication that works by decreasing the adrenaline produced by your body when you are stressed and has been shown to help with trauma-related nightmares. This can significantly improve your sleep. Ask your health care provider if it may be right for you.

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For Providers

Consult with PTSD Experts

The PTSD Consultation Program offers free PTSD consultation to any provider who treats Veterans in any setting. This program is now open to Community Providers.

PTSD Consultation Program

Have a question about PTSD? Contact us:
Call 866-948-7880 or

Prescribing Medications Following Trauma

Medications can be used alone or as an important adjunct to the evidenced based psychotherapies for PTSD. Our updated Clinician's Guide to Medications for PTSD discusses medications and psychotherapy, common barriers to effective medication treatment, and other considerations.

A perscription pad with RX printed on it

Find a comprehensive discussion of pharmacotherapy in the VA/DoD PTSD Clinical Practice Guidelines. PTSD co-occurs with many conditions including pain and mild traumatic brain injury. Exercise caution when prescribing multiple sedative medications, for example opioids and benzodiazepines.

Further topics to consider:

Earn CE/CMEs Learning about Medications

Please tell others about Continuing Ed Course opportunities:

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For VA Providers

2015 PTSD Consultation Lecture Series


VA staff please sign up for VA Staff PTSD Updates to receive monthly notices that include a registration link and instructions for joining the live lectures.

Next Lectures in the Series

  • 8/19 at 2 pm ET - Sheila Rauch, PhD on Applying Cutting Edge Research Advance to PE: Safety Learning and Extinction
  • 9/16 at 2 pm ET - Bruce Capehart, MD on Prescribing for Co-occurring ADHD

Mark your calendar for the 3rd Wednesday of each month at 2 pm ET.

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Research at the Center

Ketamine for treatment-resistant PTSD

Center investigators recently begun a trial of ketamine (a drug which is typically used for sedation but also has rapid antidepressant effects) for treating PTSD in active duty military personnel and Veterans who do not respond to antidepressant treatment. The trial is part of the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD award and may yield a novel medication option for PTSD.

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PTSD in the News

VA-led consortium launches brain bank for research on PTSD. A July 9th story in the Virginia, Minnesota Hometown Focus on the launching of the national PTSD brain bank quoted Dr. Matthew Friedman, Senior Advisor to and former Executive Director of the National Center for PTSD. Read more.*

VA Opens First PTSD 'Brain Bank'. Dr. Matthew Friedman was interviewed for a July 15th article in the Valley News (Upper Valley, Vermont/New Hampshire) on the opening of the national PTSD brain bank. Read more.*

EDITORIAL: State says no THC for PTSD. A July 16th editorial in the Colorado Springs (CO) Gazette on a recent vote by the Colorado Board of Health against approving the use of medical marijuana for PTSD highlighted the skepticism of the National Center for PTSD, among others, about THC's efficacy for treating PTSD. Read more.*

Be sure to forward this update to others so they can subscribe. We send one update per month to keep you informed of the latest PTSD developments.

Thank you,

The Staff of VA’s National Center for PTSD

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