Yohimbine use in a natural setting: effects on posttraumatic stress disorder

Biol Psychiatry. 1999 Aug 1;46(3):442-4. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(99)00107-9.


Background: Numerous laboratory-based studies have shown that chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with alterations in catecholamines. In a recent neuroendocrine challenge study, IV yohimbine caused exaggerated subjective, behavioral, cardiovascular and catecholamine responses among combat veterans with PTSD compared to healthy controls. Yohimbine is an alpha-2-adrenergic receptor antagonist that activates noradrenergic neurons.

Methods: This report describes the experience of 4 individuals with PTSD who took over-the-counter oral yohimbine that they had purchased from a health food store or pharmacy.

Results: All 4 subjects experienced a marked exacerbation of anxiety/panic and PTSD-specific symptoms immediately after ingesting yohimbine in a natural setting.

Conclusions: The response in these individuals closely resembled the response observed after IV yohimbine in combat veterans with PTSD. The present cases occurred in a natural setting and thus complement laboratory-based findings. The authors caution against the recreational or medical use of yohimbine in individuals who have PTSD.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Adrenergic alpha-Antagonists / adverse effects*
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Panic Disorder / chemically induced
  • Recreation
  • Recurrence
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Yohimbine / administration & dosage
  • Yohimbine / adverse effects*


  • Adrenergic alpha-Antagonists
  • Yohimbine
  • Norepinephrine