PTSD Drug More Effective in People with High Blood Pressure

Man with eyes closed standing by windowPrazosin, a blood pressure drug that can also reduce symptoms of posttraumatic stress (PTSD), may be more effective in people with high blood pressure, according to a study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Anyone who experiences a serious trauma, particularly one that feels life-threatening, can develop PTSD. The condition is most often associated with veterans, but civilians who survive non-combat traumas are also especially vulnerable. A 2016 study found 30-80% of sexual assault survivors develop PTSD symptoms such as flashbacks and nightmares. About 30-40% of people who survive disasters and 25-33% of car accident survivors experience PTSD.

Does Blood Pressure Affect PTSD Treatment?

The new study looked at biological markers that might predict drug response in soldiers with PTSD. Though many people have good results with prazosin, about a third experience no change in their symptoms.

To explore why this might be, researchers looked at PTSD symptoms and blood pressure in 67 Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans. Over 15 weeks, 32 of the veterans took prazosin and 35 took a placebo.

Prazosin works by blocking receptors that can reduce the effects of the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline, which the body releases during times of stress. These receptor levels cannot be directly measured, but because noradrenaline stimulation increases blood pressure, blood pressure readings could indicate activity in the relevant receptors.

Soldiers who had higher systolic blood pressure prior to treatment were more likely to experience symptom relief. Systolic blood pressure, the top number in a blood pressure reading, indicates the pressure in the arteries while the heart is beating. The study’s authors suggest blood pressure might be a useful biomarker for personalized PTSD treatment.

The Connection Between PTSD and Blood Pressure

People with PTSD may also be more vulnerable to high blood pressure. A 2011 study published in The Open Cardiovascular Medicine Journal points to research showing people with PTSD experience blood pressure spikes in response to loud sounds and reminders of trauma. Some studies have also linked combat-related PTSD to elevations in blood pressure and heart rate.

References:

  1. Blood pressure may open door to personalized medicine for PTSD. (2016, November 3). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161103091008.htm
  2. Coughlin, S. S. (2011). Post-traumatic stress disorder and cardiovascular disease. The Open Cardiovascular Medicine Journal, 5(1), 164-170. doi:10.2174/1874192401105010164
  3. What the New York Times gets wrong about PTSD. (2016, May 19). Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-05/du-wtn051916.php

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  • joely

    joely

    November 15th, 2016 at 2:38 PM

    and perhaps if the blood pressure goes down then you automatically feel a little less anxious?

  • Sebastian

    Sebastian

    November 16th, 2016 at 10:20 AM

    I would also be curious to know whether therapy can also play a role in helping to not only alleviate PTSD symptoms but to also help with lowering blood pressure as well. Sure I recognize that much of this is a physical problem but it also seems reasonable that if someone could help you to deal better with the anxiety induction and triggering things then that could naturally cause a decrease in the blood pressure rates.

  • noni

    noni

    November 20th, 2016 at 7:21 AM

    so help me out with this, if this is a blood pressure drug that works best for treating ptsd with those with high blood pressure, why would anyone with low or normal blood pressure rates even be taking this to begin with?

  • Roy

    Roy

    November 21st, 2016 at 3:09 PM

    How do we know that perhaps the sampling of people wasn’t tainted and leaned more heavily on seeing patients with high blood pressure than those with normal blood pressure readings?

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