A systematic literature review of prazosin in the treatment of nightmares will be presented this week during the 20th European Congress of Psychiatry by researchers from the Mayo Clinic. They will announce that prazosin (a blood pressure medication) is an effective treatment to repress nightmares associated to post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Four of the 12 prazosin studies examined by the team were randomized controlled trials.

Simon Kung, M.D., a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist and lead researcher of the study, explained:

“The studies showed the drug was well-tolerated and can take effect rapidly, within days to weeks, and some patients reported a return of nightmares when the course of prazosin was stopped.

There’s not much available for treating nightmares in terms of medications, so prazosin is a promising option.”

According to Kung:

“Because of the low side effects of prazosin as reported in these studies, it seems logical to extend the use of prazosin to non-PTSD nightmares.”

Nightmares are a common symptom among individuals suffering from PTSD. These nightmares disrupt sleep with very frightening images of emotional or physical threats or replaying the traumatic event that caused PTSD.

These severe nightmares can contribute to substance abuse and suicidal thinking, as well as alcoholism.

The development of overstimulated chemical messenger norepinephrine receptors in the central nervous system, is one possible cause for symptoms of nightmares, such as disrupted sleep.

Dr. Kung, said:

“The thinking is that pharmacologic agents, like prazosin, that block these receptors may be ideal in treating nightmares.”

Prazosin is a medication to treat hypertension. It has been used by some Veterans Administration hospitals to treat PTSD-related nightmares after studies began 10 years ago.

Additional researchers in the study include Maria Lapid, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, and Zelde Espinel M.D., M.P.H., of the Universidad El Bosque, Bogota, Colombia.

Written by Grace Rattue