MIND a British Mental Health Charity again speaks sense (Propranolol and trauma)

I’ve had readers from Great Britain criticize MIND and perhaps there are reasons for this, but I again and again am struck with how nice it would be to have an organization that is seemingly as well organized as MIND to counteract some of NAMI’s damage.

Here again from Medical News Today MIND’s chief exectutive Paul Farmer speaks to the latest media craze of using beta-blockers (most popularly Propranolol) to block painful memories—and heck, I understand the desire to forget trauma. I’m no stranger to trauma, but as he points out it’s a dangerous and slippery slope.

New research published today in Nature Neuroscience suggests that beta blockers could be the answer to weakening or erasing painful or emotional memories for patients who experience phobias or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Commenting on these new findings, Mind’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer said:

“This is fascinating research that could transform the treatment for phobias and post traumatic stress disorder. Around 10 million people in the UK have a phobia and about 3.5% of the population will be affected by post traumatic stress disorder at some point yet our understanding of how to treat these conditions is still limited. While we welcome any advancement in this field we should also exercise caution before heralding this as a miracle cure.”

“Eradicating emotional responses is clearly an area we would need to be very careful about. It could affect people’s ability to respond to dangerous situations in the future and could even take away people’s positive memories. We would not want to see an ‘accelerated Alzheimer’s’ approach.”

“We still have limited research on how to treat complex mental health problems, with the focus often on pharmacological solutions. Drugs are a somewhat sledgehammer approach and can have unintended consequences. We know from other psychiatric drugs, for example antipsychotics and antidepressants, that individuals react in hugely varied ways to treatments and are often vulnerable to unpleasant side effects.“(emphasis mine)

That last statement is perhaps a bit of an understatement, but overall I think the guy has our backs and is operating from a diplomatic political position and we need those sorts of people working with us too.

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About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

10 Responses

  1. Hey Gianna –
    Fascinating article here and interestingly, I just wrote one covering some of the research that’s been done in the last 10 years on propranolol (Inderal) and PTSD.

    You know I’m not a fan of psychotropics – very far from it. But this is the one and only drug-therapy for emotional problems that I’m open to (only open to it — not advocating it yet — you’re right, we don’t yet know enough).

    But, I’m at least open to this beta-blocker’s usage in PTSD because of a generally good safety record of this drug for 50 years and because treatment of trauma with propranolol is very short-term (most of the studies have been done shortly after the trauma and only administered for about 10-20 days). So, it’s very unlike treatment with SSRI’s which fries brains for sometimes years. 10-20 days of therapy sounds reasonable in some cases for a drug that has been show to be relatively safe for many.

    And the research shows that it’s not about effecting your brain so much as helping your body regulate adrenaline during post-trauma times. Lowering adrenaline’s effects on the brain can soften (not block, not erase) memories so that certain people may be able to move on from trauma healthfully rather than fall into a lifetime of PTSD, panic, etc.

    Again, I’m just open to the idea because of these couple of reasons. At the same time, I’m mindful of what you and MIND have said above. You and I both know that Big Pharma and the Media could have a field day with this, and we have to heed such warnings such as the one you posted above.

    I posted a link to a 60-minutes special and talk more about the research on my site at therablog.com.

    Best to you and our common cause! Thanks.

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  2. This is as scary as hell. It’s like saying: Let’s normalize rape, child abuse, mistreatment, and and and. Let’s normalize brutality and inhumanity. Makes me want to puke.

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  3. What was I thinking of?? Brutality, inhumanity, violence in whatever shape it comes is already normal. Has been for actually thousands of years. In our beautiful, modern western culture. So, it’s more like saying: Let’s shut those up, who have a problem with it. Once and for all.

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  4. Sloopy

    I don’t know about psychiatric treatment with propranalol only being short term.

    I’ve known people with “social anxiety” prescribed the drug for years.. decades even..

    I think Breggin points out the idiocy in all of this..

    Physically healthy young individuals are being dosed up with powerful drugs designed for treating serious cardiac disorders….

    If there were a definition of true madness it is this:

    Psychiatrists are relying not on the therapeutic cardiovascular properties of propranalol, but on the drug’s side effect profile!

    Only in the weird and twisted world of psychiatry do the therapeutic properties of a drug become the side effects, and the side effects become the therapy!

    That’s really not sensible! But then, when have the rogue medics of psychiatry ever shown any common sense?

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  5. Amy G

    Hi, people,

    First, let me say I am not recommending beta blockers to anyone. However, I just want to share my thoughts – from the perspective of someone who has struggled with various mental illnesses all my life and is trying whatever scientifically validated alternative treatment I can find in order to reduce my reliance on meds.

    Occasional use of beta blockers can help you get past intense, involuntarily fear. In my experience, you do not forget your fear – it just doesn’t consume you. Your body is more relaxed – not shouting, “Warning, warning, warning!” It’s true, that beta blockers can make you feel tired and sluggish. This is not a miracle drug. The desired dosage is a delicate balance.

    Sometimes it is critical for your long-term happiness or just plain day-to-day living that you do a particular thing you dread (like speak out in public or perhaps just leave the safety of your house.) If a medicine with no known lasting side effects can be used short-term to help someone who suffers get past their fear and function better and live happier, I would not rule it out. Sure, it is not a substitute for other non-medicinal treatments that can be ulimately healing — I recommend them. However, life goes by quickly, as do opportunities, important relationship events, etc. It’s not a miracle drug, but perhaps this type of medicine can help someone who is really stuck get past being paralyzed by fear.

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  6. Sloopy

    I had wondered what the Official Response would be to MIND’s press release on the dangers of propranalol for the treatment of anxiety..

    You can bet that psychiatry, Big Pharma and their army of PR whores are working overtime this week, belching out counter propaganda in response to MIND’s statement.

    The paid propagandists for the drug industry use many devious tricks to win our confidence. One of their common scams is to abuse the camaraderie on internet health forums by posing as fellow patients and consumers.

    I just want to share my thoughts“, they say.. “I write from the perspective of someone who has struggled with various mental illnesses all my life“, they claim.

    And with our sympathies opened up, they invariably move in for the kill…

    “Without Drug X, a medicine with no known lasting side effects“, “my life wouldn’t be worth living!”, they claim!

    In reality, propranalol is a potentially dangerous drug. It has some very serious side effects including rebound tachycardia and hypertension on withdrawal, which can lead to potentially fatal complications.

    Below is what Dr Peter R. Breggin, a veteran critic of psychiatry, has to say about the industry’s idiotic use of beta-blockers in the treatment of anxiety..

    “Any drug associated with reduction of anxiety or increased sleep should also be suspected of causing tolerance – an increasing need for larger doses – as well as dependence…There is no “free ride.” If the drug has a significant impact, the brain will likely try to compensate, producing the potential for rebound and withdrawal symptoms.

    Beta-blockers suppress the heart rate, thereby reducing one of the most disturbing symptoms associated with acute anxiety – the pounding heart. They are also used in medicine to slow the heart rate.

    Beta-blockers have many more negative effects on brain function than many doctors realize. Drugs such as Inderal (propranalol) can cause serious depression in some patients. More commonly, they can cause sedation and slow down the thinking process in a manner that physicians describe as “clouding the sensorium.” They can bring about a feeling of being “washed out” or lethargic. They can cause overstimulation, delirium, anxiety, nightmares, and more extreme psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations. They can also produce impotence, gastrointestinal upsets, low blood pressure, and slowed heart rate. A dangerous possibility is the constriction of the respiratory track (bronchospasm). Withdrawal can be a problem as well, in that it can result in rebound or increased heart rate and blood pressure.”

    That excerpt was taken from page 97 of Breggin’s book Your Drug May Be Your Problem – How And Why To Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications.

    In his books, Breggin cites literally thousands of sources in the mainstream medical literature to corroborate his allegations.

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