Psychopharmacology of pediatric posttraumatic stress disorder

J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 1999;9(3):203-20. doi: 10.1089/cap.1999.9.203.


Objective: To review the current knowledge of pharmacotherapy in the treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as it applies to children and adolescents and to provide a rational approach to medication use in Pediatric PTSD.

Method: The literature on the psychopharmacology of Pediatric PTSD is reviewed. Additionally, literature is reviewed on the neurobiological systems presumptively involved in trauma as well as studies in the pharmacology of adult PTSD, as they pertain to the treatment of Pediatric PTSD.

Results: There are too few studies in the current Pediatric PTSD literature to confirm treatment recommendations. Downward extrapolation from the adult literature combined with an understanding of the neurobiology of PTSD and its comorbid conditions may serve as the basis for a rational pharmacotherapy of PTSD in childhood. The effectiveness of targeting pharmacological agents at PTSD symptom clusters and associated comorbid conditions remains to be verified in controlled clinical trials.

Conclusions: The state of psychopharmacology for Pediatric PTSD is in its earliest stages. While there are insufficient numbers of controlled pharmacological trials to make firm recommendations, the field requires a starting point for a rational psychopharmacological approach. Pharmacotherapy may provide symptom relief of both the debilitating primary symptoms and the comorbid conditions in children suffering from PTSD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Catecholamines / physiology
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Humans
  • Neurosecretory Systems / physiopathology
  • Receptors, GABA-A / physiology
  • Receptors, Opioid / physiology
  • Serotonin / physiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / drug therapy*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology


  • Catecholamines
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Receptors, Opioid
  • Serotonin
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid