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Pilot study of secondary prevention of posttraumatic stress disorder with propranolol.

15 Aug
Pilot study of secondary prevention of posttraumatic stress disorder with propranolol.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry and Harvard Medical School tested to see whether treatment with a beta-adrenergic blocker (propranolol or its brand name: Inderol) after an acute, psychologically traumatic event could reduce subsequent posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

Forty-one patients were randomized to an intervention group or a placebo group. Within 6 hours of the traumatic event, a ten-day course of (Inderol) or a placebo was given, 40 mg four times daily. There were 18 patients in the Inderol group and 23 in the placebo group, but fewer completed the study. The study was double-blind: neither the subjects nor the providers knew who was getting which condition.

Subjects were tested after a month with the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS). In addition, physiologic responses were measured during script-driven imagery of the traumatic event 3 months afterward. Two propranolol patients'' scores fell above, and nine below, the placebo group''s median on the CAPS (p =.03), and zero of eight propranolol, but six of 14 placebo patients were physiologic responders during the exposure imagery (p =.04).

These pilot results suggest that acute, posttrauma propranolol may have a preventive effect on subsequent PTSD.

Citation: Pitman RK, Sanders KM, Zusman RM, Healy AR, Cheema F, Lasko NB, Cahill L, Orr SP. Pilot study of secondary prevention of posttraumatic stress disorder with propranolol.Biol Psychiatry 2002 Jan 15;51(2):189-92.
Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award