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Beta- & Alpha-Blockers Can Help with PTSD

06 Oct

It’s exciting to see the progress being made in the treatment of posttraumatic stress.  Now that we finally understand the biochemical and neurophysiological nature of this distressing condition, we can be much smarter about treating it.

For instance, we’ve known for a while now that for many, beta-blockers can act as an innoculator against the later acquisition of PTS, because it disrupts the biochemical cascade of survival neurohormones that flood the system and get the whole nasty ball of symptoms rolling.  So at times when an adrenergized, hyper-vigilant kind of alertness isn't needed, selected firefighters and EMT’s, knowing they’re going into a chaotic, traumatizing, super-distressing, post-crisis situation, can take something like Inderol or Lopressor and have some significant protection. This is big, knowing that if you can control the physiological response, you are way less likely to go on to get posttraumatic stress. 


You can also achieve this same effect by becoming adept at meditation, imagery or yoga, of course, (with huge additional benefits that I won’t go into here), but that takes time, discipline and motivation.  From a quick-and-dirty, practical standpoint, it’s nice to know that sometimes a pill can get the job started.

(On a related note, for years people have been taking beta blockers for test-taking anxiety with the same effects.  You may feel panicky and overwhelmed in your head, but it doesn’t translate to your body, and because it doesn’t, the panic gets stalled, has nowhere to go.  Performance isn’t impaired by shakes, sweats, jitters, hyperventilation and the rest of it. And without that physiological feedback jamming your nervous system, you can think straight and take the test.)

Now a new study out of the DeBakey V.A. Hospital in Houston shows that alpha-blockers (brands like Vasoflex, a medication used to treat hypertension) just might be the next best thing for PTS-related sleep disturbances and nightmares.  Check out our Hot Research page for the details. It’s a pleasure to see the ongoing discoveries of new solutions to very old, painful, intractable problems.

Okay, take care and be well.


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