Project Lead(s): Hanna Kienzler
It is estimated that more than 20 million people suffer from trauma-related health problems, particularly Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), caused by violence as well as natural disasters.
There currently exists no inexpensive, culturally-appropriate treatment for PTSD.
The project was a collaboration between McGill University and the non-governmental Centre for Victims of Torture (Kathmandu, Nepal).
A small randomized clinical trial study with Nepalese torture survivors was conducted to assess a treatment that diminishes traumatic memory and its negative effects.
The main hypothesis tested the efficacy of reconsolidation blockade (using the beta-blocker propranolol) versus treatment with the SSRI paroxetine, the ‘gold standard’ pharmacological treatment for PTSD.
A qualitative component assessed social acceptability, feasibility and usefulness of the treatment for a future, larger study implementation.
Outcomes measured include PTSD symptoms, psychological distress, clinical global impression, coping, quality of life and disability score.
Results of pre- to post-treatment assessment showed that treatment with propranolol was as effective as paroxetine for treating PTSD over 13 weeks, with an 82% improvement in PTSD symptoms over the study period.
Reconsolidation blockade was well-accepted by the patients.
Local health counsellors were trained in administering the treatment, attesting to its simplicity and social acceptability.
While initial project results far exceeded the researchers’ most optimistic expectations, six-month follow-up results are being assessed to determine whether improvement is sustained. Treatment adherence and safety are also still being analyzed.
Results of the trial were disseminated through conferences and events.
The project team would like to further validate the treatment with a larger multi-site sample, as well as transition from a single-blind to a double-blind study design.