Expert Commentary

Treatment for symptoms of chronic military-service-related PTSD

2011 study on the effect of an antipsychotic drug on chronic military service-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)


Approximately 27% of military personnel sought medical assistance for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder through a Veterans Affairs (VA) health facility between  2002 and 2010, according to a 2011 report by the  Congressional Research Service (PDF). Common PTSD treatments include both medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy through hospital stays and outpatient service.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Adjunctive Risperidone Treatment for Antidepressant-Resistant Symptoms of Chronic Military Service-Related PTSD,” treated a random selection of 247 returned military service officers diagnosed with PTSD with the drug risperidone and then assessed its impact on participants’ PTSD-related symptoms as measured by the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS).

The study’s findings include:

  • While subjects’ CAPS scores decreased across the sample set, there was no significant difference between the group administered the antipsychotic drug compared to those administered a placebo.
  • At least 5% of study subjects experienced adverse side effects, including weight gain, fatigue, somnolence, and hyper-salivation. The adverse effects appear to be confined to instances in which the subject was receiving a 3mg or higher dose of risperidone.

The researchers conclude that “risperidone, the second most widely prescribed SGA within VA for PTSD… did not reduce overall PTSD severity (CAPS total score), produce global improvement … or increase quality of life in patients with chronic SRI- resistant military-related PTSD symptoms. Overall, the data do not provide strong support for the current wide-spread prescription of risperidone to patients with chronic SRI-resistant military-related PTSD symptoms, and these findings should stimulate careful re- view of the benefits of these medications in patients with chronic PTSD.”

Tags: mental health, PTSD, veterans, war

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