Sunday, January 31, 2010

Research Highlights: Administration of Morphine May Lower Risk of Developing PTSD

Administration of Morphine May Lower Risk of Developing PTSD

Caroline Melhado

A new research study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the use of morphine directly following a traumatic experience significantly lowers the chances of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The study examined soldiers who were admitted to navy-marine corps care during operation Iraqi Freedom.

Researchers examined 696 patients from the Navy–Marine Corps Combat Trauma Registry Expeditionary Medical Encounter Database. Soldiers who suffered traumatic brain injuries or lacked complete records were excluded from the study. Of the 243 participants who developed PTSD only 61 were administered Morphine, while of the 453 patients who did not develop PTSD, 76% received Morphine (odds ratio, 0.47; P<0.001). Even taking into account other variables such as age, injury severity, and amputation status, the correlation remained significant.

This research shadows a previous study that linked the use of morphine and other opiates to reduce the chance of developing PTSD in pediatric burn victims.

Researchers suggest that pharmacotherapeutic intervention may be a method of second line of defense against PTSD not only in soldiers but rape victims, burn victims and others as well. While this was an observational study, and therefore causal inferences cannot be made, many doctors believe that opiates would block memory consolidation and subsequent fear responses after a traumatic event. Additionally researchers were not able to fully develop a dose-response relationship because of the nature of the research.

Reference: NEJM. 2010; 362:110-117.

Caroline Melhado is the 2009 - 2010 Research Highlights Editor.
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