Excellent news was announced this past week when a study published in Molecular Psychiatry reported that the common antibiotic doxycycline may be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The University College London (UCL) and University of Zurich conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial with 76 health volunteers. This type of study is considered the “gold standard” and is used worldwide by the scientific community such that, “when ideally performed, produces knowledge untainted by bias” by any outside factors.
University College London describes the experiment:
In the first session, participants were given either doxycycline or a placebo and learnt to associate a certain colour with an electric shock. A week later they were shown the colours again, accompanied by a loud sound but no shocks, and their fear responses were measured.*
The fear response was 60% lower in participants who had doxycycline in the first session compared to those who had the placebo, suggesting that the fear memory was significantly suppressed by the drug. Other cognitive measures including sensory memory and attention were not affected.
Professor Dominik Bach (UCL Wellcome Centre for Neuroimaging, Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research and University of Zurich Division of Clinical Psychiatry Research) reported,
“We have demonstrated a proof-of-principle for an entirely new treatment strategy for PTSD.
“Using drugs to prevent PTSD would be challenging, since in the real world we don’t know when a traumatic event is about to occur. However, there is growing evidence that people’s memories and associations can be changed after the event when they experience or imagine similar situations. This is called ‘reconsolidation’, and we now plan to test the effect of doxycycline on reconsolidation of fear memories. If this is successful, we would hope to apply the technique to more clinically realistic models of PTSD within a few years.”
We veterans, who acquired PTSD from serving our country, will patiently await any new treatment that will help us make it through our daily lives more peacefully than we currently do.
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