About 8% of Americans will experience post-traumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives, but there are still few effective options for treating the condition.
There are medical treatments for PTSD and psychotherapies for PTSD, but patients continue to suffer from symptoms that do not respond to currently available treatments. »
Lesley Arnold, MD
June is PTSD Awareness Month and the University of Cincinnati is currently recruiting patients for clinical trials looking at the effectiveness of different drugs to better treat PTSD symptoms.
Arnold said PTSD is a common and often chronic disorder that develops after a traumatic event that someone personally experiences or witnesses.
“People with PTSD often relive aspects of the original trauma and may develop symptoms such as avoidance of trauma reminders, negative thoughts and feelings, and increased awareness of their surroundings,” said Arnold, director of the Women’s Health Research Program and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at UC College of Medicine.
Most people exposed to trauma will have an acute stress reaction in the moment, Arnold said, but about 30% of those who experience trauma develop PTSD. Symptoms can last for months or years and also include trouble sleeping or nightmares, memory or concentration problems, and depression and anxiety.
In people who are at higher risk of being exposed to trauma, such as veterans, PTSD occurs in even higher proportions, Arnold said. The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated PTSD symptoms in some people.
“It has led to some isolation and made it difficult for individuals to seek care or continue with treatment,” Arnold said.
Arnold and his team are focused on testing drug treatments that could help alleviate PTSD symptoms that have not responded to currently available drugs, including insomnia and nightmares.
“The problem we have is that there are two FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of PTSD, but these drugs don’t work for everyone and they take a long time to work,” Arnold said.
Each of the clinical trials will test different new drugs that take new approaches to treating unregulated neurotransmitters in the brain that are implicated in PTSD. Randomized trials will measure the effectiveness of drugs against a placebo control group.
“We urgently need treatments for PTSD,” Arnold said. “That’s why these trials are so important because they offer a new approach that we hope will be effective in helping patients overcome issues associated with PTSD and regain full function.”
Adults, women and men, over the age of 18 with PTSD are eligible to participate in the trials, with patients with a variety of different traumatic experiences recruited. The trials will involve approximately three months of patient participation.
“We are asking for volunteers to help us with our trials, those people who continue to show symptoms of PTSD,” Arnold said. “We are actively conducting these trials, and I encourage individuals to come forward to help.”
Arnold said there has been increased interest in research into drug treatments for PTSD over the past five years or so.
“This is an exciting and hopeful time for people with PTSD as we actively seek better treatments,” she said. “There has been growing interest and recognition of the unmet needs of this population, so I’m really happy to be able to run these trials now and to be able to offer some hope to people with PTSD.”
For more information on PTSD testing at UC, call 513-558-6612.