Neuroleptic use in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Psychiatr Q. Fall 2001;72(3):197-213. doi: 10.1023/a:1010318414199.


Background: There have been few studies of the use of neuroleptics in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This study uses data from two large outcome studies to: (1) examine demographic and treatment characteristics associated with neuroleptic prescription in the treatment of PTSD, and (2) compare the outcomes of neuroleptic-treated patients with those not receiving neuroleptics.

Methods: A secondary analysis of an observational outcome study of 831 inpatients and 554 outpatients (all males) receiving treatment at the VA for combat-related PTSD was performed. Patients were classified as having either received neuroleptics during the following year or not. Sociodemographic characteristics, treatment and medication history and detailed information about PTSD symptoms were obtained at baseline and 12 months. First, the two groups were compared with respect to the demographic and clinical variables. We then conducted a series of separate paired t-tests to determine whether there was significant improvement from baseline to follow up in each group and a series of analyses of covariance that compared outcomes in the two groups, adjusting for baseline differences.

Results: Approximately 9% of inpatients and 10% of outpatients were treated with neuroleptics. Patients who received neuroleptics had both more psychiatric and more social impairment. They also demonstrated more severe PTSD (especially intrusive symptoms) despite having similar combat exposure. Outcomes after one year for the group treated with neuroleptics were not significantly different from the group not treated with neuroleptics.

Conclusions: Neuroleptic use in the treatment of PTSD is targeted at more seriously ill patients and was not associated with substantial improvement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Combat Disorders / diagnosis
  • Combat Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Combat Disorders / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Veterans / psychology*


  • Antipsychotic Agents