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Harvard review of psychiatry

The Psychopharmacology Algorithm Project at the Harvard South Shore Program: an update on posttraumatic stress disorder.


PMID 21916826

Abstract

This project aimed to provide an organized, sequential, and evidence-supported approach to the pharmacotherapy of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), following the format of previous efforts of the Psychopharmacology Algorithm Project at the Harvard South Shore Program. A comprehensive literature review was conducted to determine the best pharmacological choices for PTSD patients and to update the last published version (1999) of the algorithm. We focused on optimal pharmacological interventions to address the prominent symptoms of PTSD, with additional attention to the impact that common comorbidities have on treatment choices. We found that SSRIs and SNRIs are not as effective as previously thought, and that awareness of their long-term side effects has increased. New evidence suggests that addressing fragmented sleep and nightmares can improve symptoms (in addition to insomnia) that are frequently seen with PTSD (e.g., hyperarousal, reexperiencing). Prazosin and trazodone are emphasized at this initial step; if significant PTSD symptoms remain, an antidepressant may be tried. For PTSD-related psychosis, an antipsychotic may be added. In resistant cases, two or three antidepressants may be used in sequence. Following that, or with partial improvement and residual symptomatology, augmentation may be tried; the best options are antipsychotics, clonidine, topiramate, and lamotrigine. This heuristic may be helpful in producing faster symptom resolution, fewer side effects, and increased compliance.

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