Testing a Low-Dose of the Hypertension Drug Clonidine for PTSD in Veterans
Principal Investigator: Dr. Gregory Burek
Research Description: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects 10-31% of US military veterans and results in intense suffering and life disruptions for veterans, as well as for their families and friends. PTSD is associated with increased hyperarousal and sleep deprivation, thought to result from increased noradrenergic (norepinephrine) activity, responsible for the flight or fight response. Medication blocking norepinephrine activity such as prazosin has been effective at improving sleep and reducing PTSD symptoms in many veterans. However, not all veterans with PTSD respond to prazosin treatment. Clonidine is an FDA-approved antihypertensive similar to prazosin, but it directly blocks the release of norepinephrine whereas prazosin blocks the downstream effects, suggesting that clonidine has the potential to improve PTSD symptoms by targeting similar pathways in a unique way. Clonidine has been safely used for decades for high blood pressure. While clonidine is often prescribed off-label in low doses for PTSD and several case studies have been published suggesting efficacy, no clinical trials have been performed to test the efficacy of clonidine specifically for PTSD and resulting hyperarousal or sleep disturbances. This pilot study will test low-dose clonidine for veterans with PTSD and assess its efficacy for reducing PTSD symptoms and improving sleep in a randomized, controlled clinical trial. Results will be used for a larger study to both test effectiveness and to identify which veteran populations benefit from clonidine use.
Funding Partners: The Kahlert Foundation
CWR funding role: Primary funder