Pharmacological Innovations for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Medication- Enhanced Psychotherapy
Boadie W. Dunlop,
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common condition for which existing treatments are ineffective for many patients.
Recent discoveries in the neurobiology of learning and memory, along with expanding knowledge of how those systems are impacted by
the biology of the stress response, have opened new arenas for potential medication treatments for PTSD. We conducted a review of registered
clinical trials investigating the efficacy of new agents for PTSD. The glucocoritcoid and adrenergic signaling systems are the most
frequent targets of these investigational approaches to the prevention and treatment of PTSD. Additional trials are evaluating modulation
of other CNS targets, including neurosteroids, glutamate, gamma-amino butyric acid, endocannabinoids, oxytocin, neurokinin/Substance
P, and dopamine. A particularly exciting area of research is studies examining Medication-Enhanced Psychotherapy (MEP). Medications
provided before or after exposure therapy for PTSD can enhance outcomes by: 1) strengthening learning and memory of fear extinction;
2) disrupting reconsolidation, thereby weakening fear memories; or 3) facilitating engagement in psychotherapy by reducing fear and enhancing
openness to experience. The next few years promise to produce insight into the neurobiology and clinical efficacy of several
novel approaches in the pharmacologic treatment and prevention of PTSD.
Keywords: Psychotherapy, anti-anxiety agents, antidepressants, memory, glucocorticoids, adrenergic beta-antagonists, PTSD, corticotropinreleasing
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