Published On: November 23, 2022
Reviewed On: November 23, 2022
Updated On: July 14, 2023
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affected an estimated 3.6% of adults in the United States in the last year. Although it’s often associated with combat veterans, children and adults can be diagnosed with PTSD as well.
PTSD is a mental health condition is a severe form of anxiety disorder that can last for months or years after someone witnesses or experiences trauma. Triggers can cause the trauma to resurface, resulting in extreme physical and/or emotional responses. Some common symptoms that can affect your everyday life include nightmares, flashbacks, anger, irritability, negative thoughts, sleep disturbance, or hyperarousal symptoms. Those with PTSD may even find themselves experiencing anxiety or depression in conjunction.
There are many treatment options for post-traumatic stress disorder, including PTSD medication and various therapy techniques. The most important thing to keep in mind when considering the right PTSD treatment medication or therapy is that since no two people have the same experience and treatment generally isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan.
You might need to try different techniques before something works well for you and your symptoms. In the end, finding a mental health professional with experience in treating PTSD is likely going to be your best bet. Whether this means finding the best medication for PTSD or engaging in short-term trauma-focused CBT for PTSD, there are treatment options out there for you.
Sometimes medication for PTSD nightmares or other symptoms is prescribed. Typically, medication is used in conjunction with other treatment techniques like various forms of therapy. Most often, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — antidepressants — are prescribed. They can help treat the depression symptoms that often present with PTSD.
While just a couple of medications are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat PTSD, many others are also prescribed “off-label.” “Off-label is when medication is prescribed in a manner that is not specified by FDA’s packaging. An in-person or online psychiatrist can set up a treatment plan utilizing a combination of medications to relieve these troubling PTSD symptoms. For instance, the prescription is used for a different condition or the dosage is different than what the FDA recommends.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of drugs commonly known as antidepressants. They can be prescribed to treat major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychological conditions like anxiety disorders and PTSD.
SSRIs work in the brain by increasing serotonin levels — a chemical messenger or neurotransmitter that carries signals between nerve cells in the brain. SSRIs inhibit the reabsorption of serotonin, which is also called the “feel-good” neurotransmitter because it enhances and stabilizes happiness, mood, and sense of well-being.
*Only FDA-approved drugs to treat PTSD
Anti-anxiety medication may be prescribed for adults with PTSD if the anxiety prevents engagement in normal, daily activities. For example, if anxiety is so bad, attending work or school becomes problematic, an anti-anxiety medication might help.
Anti-anxiety medication can reduce symptoms of anxiety such as intense worry and fear or panic attacks. They can have a physical as well as a mental effect on anxiety. Anti-anxiety medication works by slowing down the nervous system, which helps you feel calm.
Alpha-1 blockers are a class of medication that can be part of PTSD treatment. They’re primarily known for the ability to help reduce the disruptive sleep and nightmares that are often associated with PTSD.
Alpha-1 blockers work by blocking alpha-1 receptors in the brain, helping you achieve better, deeper sleep. Alpha-1 blockers are generally only prescribed for people who experience PTSD nightmares.
Mood stabilizers can be prescribed to adults with PTSD who haven’t responded to antidepressants. They’re commonly used when primary symptoms of PTSD include agitation, anger, or irritability.
Mood stabilizers work to treat PTSD by balancing brain chemicals known to regulate emotions.
The PTSD medication list below can help you understand more about the types of medication available to treat PTSD, how they work, and any risks you should be aware of.
|Zoloft||Sertraline||Can improve symptoms of PTSD, as well as general functioning and quality of life. Works by increasing serotonin in the brain. Insomnia can be a side effect.|
|Minipress||Prazosin||A high blood pressure medication that can be used off-label to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Typically only prescribed to patients who have PTSD nightmares. Works by blocking the Alpha-1 receptor for norepinephrine.|
|Paxil||Paroxetine||Good for those who have avoidance symptoms with PTSD. Can be helpful for a full range of PTSD symptoms. Works by increasing the mood-enhancing chemical serotonin.|
|Doxazosin||Can help improve sleep while reducing nightmares often associated with PTSD. Works by blocking the alpha-1 receptors in the brain.|
|Topamax||Topiramate||A study by the US Department of Veterans Affairs showed a reduction in hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD. Needs further research.|
|Lamictal||Lamotrigine||Might be effective as a primary PTSD medication. Works to decrease core symptoms of avoidance and re-experiencing trauma.|
Talk to your psychiatrist or healthcare professional about the possible risks and benefits associated with the above medications before starting treatment.
Finding the right medication for PTSD treatment can take time and patience. You may find that the first medication you try isn’t the most effective. Also, most people see a combination of PTSD medication and therapy work best together to improve symptoms.
As with any medication, reaching out to your doctor is the first thing you should do. If you’re hoping to get information about a PTSD medication list or want to find any details about symptoms, options, side effects, or anything else relating to medication, talking to your doctor is important.
To find the right medication for PTSD, go through the following easy steps:
Whenever you seriously consider starting a new medication, being informed is the most important part of the process. Deciding to take medication is a personal, private decision that you’ll need to make for yourself. Enlist the help of doctors, friends, psychiatrists, therapists, and family, but ultimately, you need to be the one to make the decision. If you have questions or concerns, your doctor can be the first place you turn.
If you’re ready to seek out medication for treatment of your PTSD, get connected with a licensed prescriber today.
Nimh.nih.gov. Published 2021. Accessed October 21, 2021.
Alexander W. P T. 2012;37(1):32-38.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Adaa.org. Published 2021. Accessed October 21, 2021.
ClinicalTrials.gov, US Department of Veterans Affairs. Accessed October 21, 2021.
American Psychological Association; 2017:11-17. Accessed October 21, 2021.
NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. Nami.org. Published 2017. Accessed October 21, 2021.
Dr. Muhammad Munir, MD, DFAPA, has over 20 years of clinical experience specializing in mood disorders, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, PTSD, panic disorder, and ADHD. Dr. Munir believes in “back to basics” the therapeutic alliance between the physician and patients. The hallmark of this alliance is the emphatic process whereby the patient is not only enabled, but educated and encouraged, to take an active role in their psychiatric care and wellbeing.