Work like a dream: new anticholinergic drug keeps PTSD flashbacks and nightmares away

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rings a bell for many, due to its rampant references in pop culture, and more, importantly, its prevalence in today’s society. It is only probable that this disorder, which develops after shocking or dangerous events, would unfortunately affect the lives of many people. Medical researchers have been hard at work trying to come up with solutions to combat this condition and its manifestations effectively. Unfortunately, the neurological mechanisms of PTSD aren’t clear, and without knowing this exactly, trying to find a cure is a shot in the dark.

Fortunately, a group of Japanese researchers from the Sogo PTSD Institute, Medical Corporation Sogokai, Japan led by Dr. Masanobu Sogo appear to have made a breakthrough in PTSD treatment! They have identified a drug called trihexyphenidyl, that can significantly reduce the flashbacks and nightmares experienced by patients with PTSD, according to a study published in Brain and Behavior, a sister open access journal to ACTA J.

Trihexyphenidyl is a central anticholinergic drug used to manage disorders like parkinsonism, and alleviate several side-effects induced by drugs acting on the central nervous system (CNS). It acts by blocking the activity of a neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, in the CNS. Interestingly, it has been available for therapeutic use for around 66 years.

So, what inspired the researchers to pick up this drug? In 2009, they encountered a patient who suffered severe PTSD-related flashbacks and nightmares for 9 years, was diagnosed with bacterial diarrhea at another hospital, and administered a drip infusion containing antibiotics and scopolamine butyl bromide (SB), which is a peripheral anticholinergic that doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB, penetration rate 0.01%). Twenty minutes after the infusion, the patient’s flashbacks completely disappeared!

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