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Beta-blockers May Treat PTSD

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posted on Jan, 18 2006 @ 12:09 PM
New findings suggest that the beta-blocker propranolol, if properly prescibed in a timely manner, may help ease the burden of those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Apparently, the drug may help PTSD patients by reducing the emotional impact of the traumatic memory when it is recalled.
Heart Drug May Block Stress of Traumatic Memories

Today the most effective PTSD treatments are cognitive behavior therapies, also known as exposure therapies.

In such treatments, patients are encouraged to confront their traumatic memories, and therapists help them overcome the associated anxieties.

Richard McNally, a PTSD expert at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, compared exposure therapy to watching a scary movie again and again so that over time the movie no longer seems frightening.

However, he said, some people are reluctant to participate in such therapy because they find it too distressing. Others "may enroll in therapy but not participate fully for the same reason and may therefore not benefit," he added.

Researchers say the beta-blocker propranolol, commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure and heart problems, disrupts the way the brain stores memories.

If taken at the right time, the drug may benefit people who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), said Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist at New York University.

"We're not erasing memories," he said. "But we think it will reduce the emotional component of the memory."

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In 2001, I was advised to try cognitive therapy to overcome the stress of an incident at work where I stepped between my GM and an employee brandishing a butcher knife. I was sure the employee was about to slash my GM (who was on the phone in the kitchen calling for security) with the knife, so I stepped between them and calmly asked the guy to put down the knife because he was scaring people. He said, "Its my knife!" and waved it in my face. I said, "Ok, ok, its your knife. Put it down." For a second, I thought he was going to slash me with it, but instead he gave a hellish screech and threw it forcefully into the trash can beside him. He was subsequently arrested, and I went home that night and got very drunk and cried a lot.

To me, cognitive therapy was a bunch of smoke and mirrors, described as changing the memory to something banal and non-threatening, basically trying to fool myself into thinking it had never happened. Yeah, right.

I welcome the news of a new alternative that may take away the emotional impact of a traumatic memory and allow an individual to function normally again.

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