Health & Fitness

Veterans Affairs and the use of benzodiazepines for PTSD

Key Ideas

The VA/DoD Practice Guideline for PTSD says that benzodiazepines are not a good way to treat PTSD.

More and more evidence shows that long-term use of benzodiazepines by people with PTSD can cause harm.

Prescriptions for benzodiazepines for veterans with PTSD have gone down from 30% in 2012 to 9.1% in 2020. (Quarter 3; 1).

Most of the credit for this decrease in use goes to the Psychotropic Drug Safety Initiative (PDSI) and the National Academic Detailing Program (NADP).

How Benzodiazepines are Used to Treat PTSD

The VA/DoD 2017 Practice Guideline for the Management of PTSD says that Veterans with PTSD should not regularly take benzodiazepines (2). The recommendation was based on the fact that benzodiazepines haven’t been shown to work and that their risks for abuse and dependence are well known.

Check: Narcissistic parents

There have been two randomised clinical trials with benzodiazepines to treat PTSD. Both were controlled by a placebo. Both turned out to be bad. Alprazolam (Xanax) didn’t help with PTSD symptoms (3), and clonazepam (Klonopin) didn’t help with sleep problems caused by PTSD (4). Benzodiazepines should not be used to treat PTSD, according to research using VA administrative data on Veterans in care for both PTSD and substance use disorder (SUD) (5). A recent meta-analysis of 18 studies with more than 5,200 participants found that benzodiazepines don’t help treat PTSD and that the risks of using them outweigh any short-term benefits (6).

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