PTSD symptoms aren’t insurmountable. Many medications can help improve your quality of life, each with its own pros and cons.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects
Treatment for PTSD typically includes therapy and medication. Therapy is the gold-standard treatment approach.
However, several antidepressant medications can help reduce the severity of PTSD symptoms.
Ahead, we explore the different medication options for PTSD, including what you need to know about potential side effects and how to discuss these treatments with a doctor.
Several treatment options exist for PTSD. The two most effective approaches are therapy and medication:
- Therapy can help people living with PTSD better manage their symptoms by addressing uncomfortable or distressing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Some common therapy approaches for PTSD include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and prolonged exposure therapy.
- Medications can help reduce the severity of PTSD symptoms by changing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most common medications doctors prescribe to treat PTSD symptoms.
According to a
In one large
Researchers found the following medications were all effective at reducing the severity of PTSD symptoms:
However, the effect of these medications was small.
In addition, prazosin and risperidone also produced small but positive effects on PTSD symptoms when used with other medications.
According to the American Psychological Association, four medications are currently recommended to treat PTSD:
Sertraline, paroxetine, and fluoxetine are SSRIs. They work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.
Venlafaxine is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). It works by increasing both serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain.
Other medications, including quetiapine and risperidone, may also have some effects on PTSD symptoms. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved these medications to treat PTSD. This means they are prescribed “off-label” for this condition.
According to the study results, MDMA-assisted psychotherapy improved PTSD symptoms in as little as 1–2 months.
For many participants, symptoms continued to improve for at least 12 months after treatment, with upward of 67% of participants no longer meeting PTSD criteria after follow-up.
However, the research on these options is limited, and many studies have shown conflicting results.
All the medications used to treat PTSD can potentially cause side effects. Many of these side effects vary depending on the type of medication, but when it comes to SSRIs and SNRIs, a lot of the side effects are similar.
Some of the common side effects of SSRIs may include:
- dry mouth
- difficulty sleeping
- increased anxiety
- changes in libido
- changes in sexual function
- increased appetite
- weight changes
Some of the common side effects of SNRIs may include:
- dry mouth
- appetite changes
- weight changes
- changes in libido and sexual function
If you’re pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, it’s important to discuss this with your doctor. These medications generally aren’t recommended during pregnancy.
SSRIs and SNRIs can also interact with other medications that affect serotonin levels, resulting in a condition called serotonin syndrome.
Some SSRIs and SNRIs also interact with certain foods and drinks, including:
- orange juice or grapefruit juice
Some can also be reactive to extreme heat or prolonged sun exposure.
Each medication may interact differently, though, so it’s always important to discuss potential interactions with your doctor before you start taking a new medication.
Getting involved in research
Clinical trials are always looking for participants to help test the safety and effectiveness of developing treatments. If you’ve been exploring treatment options for your PTSD, you may be eligible to participate in new medication trials.
If you’re interested in learning more about these clinical trials, your local hospital or university may have more information on opportunities in your area.
However, here are some additional resources you can check out for more trials and studies near you:
Antidepressants are the most common class of medications doctors use to treat PTSD.
Several options are effective for treating PTSD symptoms. These options include three SSRIs — sertraline, paroxetine, and fluoxetine — and one SNRI, venlafaxine.
If you live with PTSD and have been considering medication for your symptoms, consider reaching out to a doctor or therapist to discuss your options.