A widely used hypertension drug improves sleep and reduces traumatic nightmares in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to federal researchers.
"This is the first drug that has been demonstrated effective for PTSD nightmares and sleep disruption," said the study's leader, Dr. Murray A. Raskind of the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle.
"These nightmares are heavily troublesome to veterans," he said. He estimated that as many as half of the 10 million veterans and civilians with PTSD had nightmares that could be helped by the drug, prazosin, sold under the brand name Minipress.
At least 5,000 veterans in the VA system in the Northwest are already receiving generic prazosin, he said.
Raskind and his colleagues enrolled 40 veterans; half received the drug and half took a placebo for eight weeks.
The researchers will report Sunday in the journal Biological Psychiatry that those receiving the drug experienced significantly improved sleep quality, reduced traumatic nightmares, a better overall sense of well-being and an improved ability to function.
Side effects included nasal congestion, headaches and dry mouth.
"This drug has been taken by many people for decades," Raskind said. "If there were serious long-term adverse side effects, it is likely we would know about them by now."
Three larger studies of the drug are now beginning or underway.