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Steroids for PTSD?

pillsCortisol helps our bodies cope with stress, but its effect on the brain remains controversial. A new study suggests the administration of corticosteroids may be an indicated treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In an animal model of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), high doses of a cortisol-related substance, corticosterone, prevented negative consequences of stress exposure, including increased startle response and behavioral freezing when exposed to reminders of the stress.

However, low-dose corticosterone potentiated these responses. This finding suggests that corticosterone levels may influence both vulnerability and resilience in a dose-dependent manner through its involvement in memory processes.

One of the complexities in understanding PTSD is the context-dependency of adaptation.

In some situations, for example following a car accident in an otherwise secure community, one objective of treatment is to restore a sense of normalcy and control of one’s life.

Within this context, the high-dose corticosterone would seem to be the indicated treatment. However, one could imagine scenarios where hypervigilance and heightened emotional reactivity could be adaptive, perhaps in a combat zone. In that case, the lower and more typical corticosterone levels might help soldiers adapt to the continuing risks of combat.

But, people do not spend their lives in a single context. “In the case of helping soldiers adjust to the stress of war, we have to think both short-term and long-term, to help soldiers adjust to combat, but also to help them return from combat to resume peacetime life.

Thus, we need further guidance from animal research about how to help soldiers adjust flexibly across contexts, from the battlefield to the breakfast table,” as explained by John H. Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System.

Corresponding author Dr. Hagit Cohen concludes that, “single high-dose corticosteroid treatment may thus be worthy of clinical investigation as a possible avenue for early pharmacotherapeutic intervention in the acute phase, aimed at prevention of chronic stress-related disorders, such as PTSD.

In this sense, it brings treatment of PTSD to a new era — an era of secondary prevention.”

Source: Elsevier

Steroids for PTSD?

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Steroids for PTSD?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 16, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2008/10/23/steroids-for-ptsd/3187.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.