Teen Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: New Drug Prevents Fear Memories

Dr. Kerry Ressler, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, pointed out that what makes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) unique is that clinicians know when the psychological illness started – at the time of the trauma. Unlike other psychological disorders, where cause is usually guessed at based on a person’s history, the etiology of PTSD is often clear.


Sometimes, experiencing a traumatic event (such as a car accident, death in the family, divorce, physical violence, or witnessing violence) won’t leave any lasting effect once the event has passed. However, depending on the severity of the event, the resiliency of the person, their psychological makeup, conditioning, ethnicity, and other factors, the event can leave severe effects on the psyche, leading to mental illnesses, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and even bipolar disorder.


The typical symptoms of someone who has experienced a traumatic event and who has not sufficiently healed from that life-threatening experience include anxiety, extreme emotional fluctuation, flashbacks, loneliness, anger, irritability, bad dreams, and frightening thoughts. An individual might also exhibit symptoms of avoidance, such as staying away from certain places to avoid reliving the traumatic experience or forgetting the experience entirely.


In addition to the symptoms just mentioned, one’s beliefs about life and the way the world is ordered can change instantly. A deep trust in the world prior to trauma can easily turn into distrust of other people, certain circumstances, and even oneself. This can be especially true if trauma repeats itself, such as witnessing death in war or ongoing sexual abuse by a family member. Repeated trauma can cause a worsening of anxiety, feeling a constant high level of alert and paranoia.


Parts of the brain to do with memory functioning can shrink with repeated trauma, making it difficult to form new memories. Also psychological stress result of experiencing a traumatic event and that remains unresolved can lead to physical health problems such as diabetes, obesity, chronic pain, and hypertension.


However, a new drug called Osanetant, targets a distinct group of brain cells having to do with the formation and consolidation of fear memories. Ressler says of the drug “drugs that act on this group of cells could be used to block fear memory consolidation shortly after exposure to a trauma, which would aid in preventing PTSD.”


Apparently the drug was tested to treat schizophrenia and was found to be safe but not effective in addressing that disorder. However, research indicates that the drug could effectively be used to treat PTSD. Another research expert indicated, “Our goal is to specifically impair emotional memories related to traumatic events instead of all memories associated with it. Thus, the trauma and its circumstances are remembered but the consolidation of fear memories are impaired.”


Certainly, those suffering from PTSD often feel as though emotions come out of nowhere and that they are too chaotic to manage. It might feel like they are unpredictable and disrupting. This drug could potential facilitate debilitating fear memories from invading a person’s mind.


Typically, treatment for teens with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder would include therapy and psychotropic medication. However, this particular drug can ease the experience of anxiety and fear for those teens that continue to experience fearful memories months or years after a traumatic event.




Emory Health Sciences. (2014, June 30). Potential drug target for PTSD prevention. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140630124423.htm