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Prazosin for PTSD

Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
prazosinMinipress

How It Works

If you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), your body may release too much adrenaline. Adrenaline is a hormone that can make you feel stressed and have nightmares.

Prazosin blocks some of the effects of adrenaline released in your body. This may help reduce the nightmares and sleep problems you have with PTSD.

Why It Is Used

By keeping you from having nightmares, prazosin may help you get better sleep. With better sleep, you can feel healthier and more alert. This may help lower your stress and help you feel more in control of your life.

How Well It Works

Research shows that prazosin may help reduce nightmares, one of the symptoms of PTSD.1 More research is needed to confirm its effectiveness for treating PTSD.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness, especially when getting up from a lying or sitting position.
  • Fainting.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Headache.
  • Lack of energy.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Since prazosin is more commonly used for high blood pressure, your doctor may want to look into its benefits for PTSD.

Prazosin may help reduce your nightmares, but it is not a cure for PTSD. Nightmares and anxiety may come back if you stop taking your medicine.

Prazosin lowers blood pressure (hypotension), which can make you feel dizzy. This usually stops when your body is used to prazosin. Be careful not to stand up too fast, especially if your dose has just been changed.

Erection drugs like Viagra also can lower your blood pressure. If you're taking erection drugs along with prazosin, your blood pressure may drop very fast. Tell your doctor if you're taking drugs for erection problems.

Prazosin can be taken safely with other PTSD medicines, such as antidepressants, but not with trazodone. Taking prazosin with trazodone can cause the rare side effect of priapism. This is an erection that doesn't go away, which can cause serious health problems.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

Women who use this medicine during pregnancy have a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you and your doctor must weigh the risks of using this medicine against the risks of not treating your condition.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Van Liempt S, et al. (2006). Pharmacotherapeutic treatment of nightmares and insomnia in posttraumatic stress disorder: An overview of the literature. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1071: 502–507.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Jessica Hamblen, PhD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Last Revised January 9, 2013

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.

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