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Connie K. Ho for RedOrbit.com
New findings from the Grady Trauma Project report that traumatized people who take a type of blood pressure medication often have less intense post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.
The results show that angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB) could be used to help treat patients with PSTD. The study was conducted with over 5,000 low-income Atlanta residents who were exposed to violence as well as physical and mental abuse, which resulted in high civilian PTSD. There was 505 participants in the study, all of which who experienced at least one traumatic event. 35 percent of the participants met the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD. Out of the 98 participants who were taking ACE inhibitors or ARB, 26 were diagnosed with PTSD.
“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,” remarked senior author Dr. Kerry Ressler, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, in a prepared statement.
The symptoms of PTSD include hyperarousal, avoidance/numbing, and intrusive thoughts. Patients would report the number of times they had each of the disorders, which were then combined to give a PTSD symptom score. In the experiment, participants who took ACE inhibitors or ARBs had about a 30 percent decline in their PTSD symptom score. They also reported less intense levels of hyperarousal and intrusive thoughts. However, there wasn´t any significant change recorded for other blood pressure medications like beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics.
“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. Still, they provide evidence from a human population that could be followed up in a rigorous controlled trial,” explained Ressler, also a researcher at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, in the statement. 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 shows how PTSD is linked to physiological factors and how blood pressure regulation can affect PTSD symptoms. It also shows how Angiotensin II, a hormone related to blood pressure regulation, is affected by ACE inhibitors and ARBs. Though, the team of researchers was surprised to find that the beta-blockers did not have any significant change on PTSD symptoms, as many athletes and musicians utilize the medication to help with performance anxiety symptoms.
“Beta blockers did appear to have a trend toward an effect, but the effects of the angiotensin medications were stronger, and when people in our study took both, only the angiotensin medications survived statistical analysis” Ressler explained in the statement. “Beta blockers may be useful in the moment for decreasing social or performance anxiety, but their efficacy in PTSD treatment is still an open question.”
The results are published in a recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.