Low-dose clonidine in veterans with Posttraumatic stress disorder
Burek GA, Waite MR, Heslin K, Liewen AK, Yaqub TM, Larsen SE. Low-dose clonidine in veterans with Posttraumatic stress disorder. J Psychiatr Res. 2021;137:480-485. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2021.03.008
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms of hyperarousal are mediated through sympathetic nervous system hyperactivity. PTSD symptoms, including distressing thoughts and memories, flashbacks, hyperarousal, and sleep disturbances, have been linked with elevated norepinephrine levels in the cerebrospinal fluid. Clonidine, an alpha2-adrenergic agonist, reduces the release of norepinephrine and has been suggested as a treatment for PTSD. However, literature for use of clonidine in PTSD is limited. The objective of this study was to evaluate clinical records of patients with PTSD treated with clonidine to assess reported efficacy and safety. A cohort of veterans with PTSD treated with clonidine at a midwestern VA hospital between July 2015 and January 2018 were studied retrospectively. Medical records of 79 patients with moderate to severe PTSD symptoms were reviewed by three independent clinicians using the Clinical Global Impressions (CGI) scale to quantify symptom severity (CGI-S) before starting clonidine and subjects' change in symptoms (CGI-I) after starting clonidine. Data on adverse events were also collected. Subgroup analyses were conducted on the impact of comorbid diagnoses, concurrent medications, and substance use. Mean CGI-S score at baseline was 4.8 (5 = markedly ill). After treatment with low-dose clonidine, 72% of patients experienced improvement, and 49% scored "much improved" or "very much improved." Adverse effects were reported by 18 out of 79 subjects. In this retrospective analysis of veterans prescribed clonidine for PTSD, CGI-I scores suggested improvement in PTSD symptoms, and minimal side effects were reported. In addition, some comorbid diagnoses and concurrent medications were correlated with variations in outcomes.