Cortisol shot may ease traumatic stress

December 2nd, 2008 - 4:56 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 2 (IANS) Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects all those who survive harrowing experiences like rape, assault, war or terrorism, leaving them emotionally and mentally shattered.Although experienced widely among soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, PTSD can strike anyone anytime who has witnessed or experienced a life-threatening event.

There is no single treatment that can lower the chance of developing the disorder, but thanks to a Tel Aviv University (TAU) researcher, a means of preventing PTSD may be just around the corner.

Joseph Zohar from Sackler Medical School, TAU, has found that an injection of cortisol shortly after exposure to a traumatic event may prevent the onset of PTSD.

He is now taking his animal model findings to the US National Institute of Health and hopes to start clinical trials on this exploratory research within the next year.

Normally, production of cortisol, a stress hormone, increases immediately after the trauma, but with time returns to normal levels.

In those who are diagnosed with PTSD, however, the body’s hormonal system is dysfunctional: there is less secretion of cortisol after exposure, and researchers believe that this underproduction increases vulnerability to PTSD.

Researchers propose that cortisol might be linked to the individual’s ability to forget memories of the traumatic event.

Currently, a diagnosis of PTSD is made only after an individual has been living with an acute stress reaction for one month. By then it may be too late to counteract the syndrome.

“Ten to 20 percent of all individuals exposed to trauma develop PTSD,” said Zohar, a professor.

“The challenge is to try to prevent or reduce these numbers. Until now, the clinical and research focus has been on treating PTSD once it developed. We propose to shift the focus to prevention.

“Based on an animal model, our new clinical findings pave the way for a potential preventive treatment for future victims via cortisol injections,” he added.

The research was recently published in Biological Psychiatry.

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