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NYT: Drugs are totally ineffective for post-traumatic distress in combat veterans – talk therapy works

August 4, 2011

A New York Times article discusses a study into the treatment of PTSD in veterans of combat in the US army has found that drugs prescribed for the condition actually do little, if anything to help.

Drugs widely prescribed to treat severe post-traumatic stress symptoms for veterans are no more effective than placebos and come with serious side effects, including weight gain and fatigue,researchers reported on Tuesday.
The surprising finding, from the largest study of its kind in veterans, challenges current treatment standards so directly that it could alter practice soon, some experts said.

The study findings suggest that it is the relationship with the doctor that is the key factor in aiding recovery.

Dr. Krystal said the benefits many doctors thought they were getting from the drugs “quite possibly came from simply engaging the patient in treatment, and not from the medication.” He said that antipsychotic drugs might help certain people with psychoticfeatures as well as post-traumatic symptoms, but that the study was not designed to identify them.

The study authors go on to suggest that talk therapies are helpful. From the description below it seems they are referring to CBT type therapeutic interventions.

Yet studies suggest that talk therapy, alone or in combination with antidepressants, can accelerate the relief of common symptoms, like nightmares and reclusive behavior. These psychotherapies tend to include relaxation skills; incrementally increased exposure to stress triggers; and challenging some inaccurate assumptions that fuel anxiety.


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