Fewer veterans with PTSD using anti-anxiety drugs

Benzodiazepines may interfere with prolonged exposure therapy, which has been one of the most effective treatments for PTSD.

Given the growing number of veterans being treated for PTSD, it is becoming increasingly important to provide effective, timely, and above all, safe treatment options.

The number of veterans with PTSD rose nearly 200 percent between 1999 and 2009. Encouragingly, the percentage of PTSD patients taking anti-anxiety medication (specifically, benzodiazepines) fell from 37 percent to 31 percent during that same time period, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. While this is encouraging news, researchers say, the frequency of use remains above 30 percent, which is still too high.

Clinical practice guidelines issued by the US department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense warn against benzodiazepine treatment for PTSD, mainly because of effectiveness concerns and safety issues related to substance abuse. The authors of the study suggest that focused interventions are required to achieve further reductions in benzodiazepine use for PTSD.

Adjunctive therapies, such as cognitive training exercises and stress-reduction tools can play a critical role in treatment.

An early indicator of PTSD is an elevation in heart rate.  Heart rate elevation is a normal response to trauma, but in PTSD it remains elevated and predicts conversion from acute stress disorder to chronic PTSD.  Elevated heart rate goes hand in hand with a lack of heart rate variability.

MyCalmBeat is designed to optimize healthy heart rate variability, via regulation in breathing. It is well suited to managing the hyper-reactive alarm system in PTSD.  It directly minimizes heart rate elevations, and brings variability into the optimal range. Given the interconnectivity of heart rate and the brain’s fear circuitry, using MyCalmBeat would have the effect of potentially reducing amygdala responsivity in PTSD.