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Ending the Nightmares: How Drug Treatment Could Finally Stop PTSD

Source: The Atlantic
Published: Wednesday 01 February, 2012

Propranolol, a beta-blocker that cuts heart rate, could silence the disastrous events on repeat in the minds of millions of people with PTSD...

Many PTSD sufferers replay disastrous events as memories that intrude on everyday life -- intrusive memories -- or in nightmares. They complain of not sleeping or concentrating. They may overreact to loud noises, become excessively alert and hypervigilant, and avoid reminders of the disaster...

Intrusive memories are only part of a larger picture that often includes a sense of isolation, hopelessness, anger, and emotional numbness.

These symptoms have made the news for years, but less is known about effective treatment. If disturbing memories can be calmed by drug-enhanced treatment, millions of people who suffer from PTSD might benefit. This affects millions of adults in the U.S., including 9/11 survivors and combat veterans. Now Dr. Alain Brunet, a clinical psychologist at McGill University in Montreal, and his collaborators are halfway through a clinical trial to see if propranolol, a beta-blocker that reduces heart rate and blood pressure -- and has been proven to calm musicians facing stage fright -- can also reduce the strength of long-standing traumatic memories.

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