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PTSD and alcohol use disorder: breaking the link

PTSD and alcohol use disorder: breaking the link


People who have suffered abuse and trauma have the highest risk of alcohol use disorder (AUD), with up to 75% of PTSD patients reporting alcohol addiction. In fact, anyone with PTSD is more than two times as likely to develop drinking problems.

The link between PTSD and alcohol use disorder

Clearly, there is a link between PTSD and alcohol addiction. While some patients depend on alcohol to soothe their traumatic memories, there is a protein in the brain that plays a role in both mental disorders. But the worst part is that all of this can lead to a vicious cycle.

When you use alcohol to manage your PTSD, the symptoms will become more severe. And this will further compel you to consume more alcohol. So the cycle goes on and on. You'll feel worse and worse about life.

That's likely why people living with both PTSD and alcohol addiction have a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and aggression than those with only one of the conditions.

The solution is to break the link between PTSD and alcohol dependence.

How to prevent PTSD patients from alcohol addiction

It's known that there is potential to alleviate PTSD and alcohol dependence by targeting the link -- the pathway -- that they share. Scripps Research scientists have now found two drugs that can do that.

One of them is benztropine, which is FDA-approved to treat Parkinson's disease. The other is SAFit2, which is still experimental at this stage. Both compounds target the FKBP5, the protein in the brain that plays a role in both PTSD and AUD. While benztropine reduced alcohol preference and aggressive behaviors, SAFit2 reduced the inclination to drink alcohol in only males.

Although the research was conducted on rats, the same protein and link exist in the human brain, so it's not unfounded to suggest that the same applies.

And since benztropine is already FDA-approved, although specifically for Parkinson's, it would be relatively easy to repurpose it for people with PTSD.

Both drugs can potentially prevent alcohol addiction after the onset of PTSD by blocking the FKBP5 protein linked with both disorders.

The research was published in Neuropsychopharmacology on November 18, 2022.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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