Researchers believe a blood pressure medication may relieve nightmares associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Mayo Clinic investigators have completed a systematic literature review of prazosin in the treatment of nightmares. Researchers investigated 12 prazosin studies, four of which were randomized controlled trials.
“The studies showed the drug was well-tolerated and can take effect rapidly, within days to weeks, and some patients reported a return of nightmares when the course of prazosin was stopped,” said Simon Kung, M.D., principal investigator of the study.
“There’s not much available for treating nightmares in terms of medications, so prazosin is a promising option,” Kung says.
He added that the literature review opens the possibility of widening the use of prazosin.
“Because of the low side effects of prazosin as reported in these studies, it seems logical to extend the use of prazosin to non-PTSD nightmares.”
Nightmares often accompany PTSD with the dreams causing sleep loss and stress. Frequently, dreams are vivid presenting extremely frightening images of physical or emotional threats. Nightmares can be so severe that they can contribute to alcoholism, substance abuse and suicidal thinking.
Researchers believe overstimulated chemical messenger receptors in the central nervous system, in particular, norepinephrine, may cause the nightmares.
“The thinking is that pharmacologic agents, like prazosin, that block these receptors may be ideal in treating nightmares,” Kung said.
Prazosin is a hypertension medication that’s been used, following research that began a decade ago, by some Veterans Administration hospitals to treat PTSD-related nightmares.
Source: Mayo Clinic