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The alpha1-Adrenergic Antagonist Prazosin Ameliorates Combat Trauma Nightmares in Veterans With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Report of 4 Cases

J Clin Psychiatry 2000;61(2):129-134

Background: Central nervous system (CNS) adrenergic hyperresponsiveness may be involved in the pathophysiology of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Two Vietnam combat veterans with PTSD prescribed the centrally active alpha1-adrenergic antagonist prazosin for symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy unexpectedly reported elimination of combat trauma nightmares. This observation prompted an open-label feasibility trial of prazosin for combat trauma nightmares in chronic combat-induced PTSD.

Method: Four consecutively identified combat veterans with chronic DSM-IV PTSD and severe intractable combat trauma nightmares participated in an 8-week open trial of escalating-dose prazosin. Nightmare severity response was rated using the nightmare item of the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale and the Clinical Global Impressions-Change scale.

Results: The 2 patients who achieved a daily prazosin dose of at least 5 mg were markedly improved, with complete elimination of trauma nightmares and resumption of normal dreaming. The 2 subjects limited to 2 mg of prazosin to avoid excessive blood pressure reduction were moderately improved with at least 50% reduction in nightmare severity.

Conclusion: These clinical observations, together with neurobiological evidence for alpha1-adrenergic regulation of CNS neurobiological systems relevant to PTSD, provide rationale for placebo-controlled trials of prazosin for PTSD combat trauma nightmares.