Can Blood Pressure Meds Reduce PTSD?

Post traumatic stress disorder symptoms may be reduced by some blood pressure medicine

(RxWiki News) Sometimes medicine designed for one purpose inadvertently solves a problem that is unrelated. In this case, medicine meant for controlling blood pressure may reduce symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Two kinds of blood pressure medicine, Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs), have been shown to reduce symptoms in one observational study.

Both medications interfere with angiotensin II, a hormone that regulates blood pressure.

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"These results are particularly exciting because it's the first time ACE inhibitors and ARBs have been connected to PTSD, and it gives us a new direction to build on," says Kerry Ressler, MD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine.

The data for the study comes from the Grady Trauma Project, an observational study on more than 5,000 low-income residents of Atlanta with high exposure to violence and abuse.

The researchers used 505 of the participants who were exposed to at least one traumatic event. Participants were asked to self-report how often they experienced symptoms of PTSD, including hyperarousal, avoidance or numbing, and intrusive thoughts.

One hundred and eighty of those participants met the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis. Ninety-eight of the participants were taking ACE inhibitors or ARBs, and 26 of those met the criteria for PTSD.

Those who were taking the ACE inhibitors or ARBs showed approximately a 30 percent decrease in PTSD symptoms, especially hyperarousal and intrusive thoughts.

There was no decrease shown in those who were taking other blood pressure medications, including beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics.

The team is excited about their findings, but caution that more research is necessary.

"These data come from an observational study, not a randomized clinical trial, so it is important to limit our interpretation until larger, placebo-control, double-blinded trials can be performed.” adds, Ressler.

“Still, they provide evidence from a human population that could be followed up in a rigorous controlled trial. This class of medications has been widely prescribed for hypertension for years and their safety profiles are well known, so our results could be translated into action relatively quickly."

The study was published on May 1st, 2012, in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry and was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. 

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Review Date: 
May 2, 2012