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Effectiveness of most PTSD therapies is uncertain
Date:10/18/2007

WASHINGTON -- Many people, including significant proportions of active duty military personnel and veterans, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), often in conjunction with other injuries or illnesses. While several drugs and psychotherapies are used to treat PTSD, many of the studies concerning their effectiveness have problems; as a result, they do not provide a clear picture of what works and what doesn't, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine.

Given the growing number of veterans with PTSD, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Congress, and the research community urgently need to take steps to overcome the problems that often plague studies of psychiatric therapies for PTSD, and to ensure the right studies are undertaken to yield data that would help clinicians treat PTSD sufferers, said the committee that wrote the report.

The committee reviewed 53 studies of pharmaceuticals and 37 studies of psychotherapies used in PTSD treatment and concluded that because of shortcomings in many of the studies, there is not enough reliable evidence to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of most treatments. There are sufficient data to conclude that exposure therapies -- such as exposing individuals to a real or surrogate threat in a safe environment to help them overcome their fears -- are effective in treating people with PTSD. But the committee emphasized that its findings should not be misread to suggest that any PTSD treatment ought to be discontinued or that only exposure therapies should be used to treat PTSD.

"At this time, we can make no judgment about the effectiveness of most psychotherapies or about any medications in helping patients with PTSD," said committee chair Alfred O. Berg, professor of family medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle. "These therapies may or may not be effective -- we just don't know in the absence of good data. Our findings underscore th
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Contact: Christine Stencel
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
The National Academies
Source:Eurekalert

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