VA Prescribing Tranquilizers For PTSD Despite Warnings Against

Robin Wulffson | | April 9, 2013

If you are a veteran suffering from with post-traumatic stress disorder and are receiving a type of tranquilizer known as a benzodiazepine, such as Valium or Xanax, you are receiving the wrong medication. A VA clinical psychologist noted that veterans diagnosed with PTSD are still being prescribed these medications by Department of Veterans Affairs physicians despite VA guidelines advising against their use for the condition. This unfortunate situation was published on April 8 in Stars and Stripes.

According Dr. Nancy Bernardy, PhD, a clinical psychologist with the VA’s National Center for PTSD, almost a third of veterans being treated for PTSD are prescribed benzodiazepines. These medications are a class of sedatives commonly used to treat insomnia, anxiety, seizures, and other conditions. Between 1999 and 2009, benzodiazepine prescriptions by VA doctors for PTSD patients declined from 37% to 30%; however, it remained at 30% through 2012. The current clinical practice guidelines for managing PTSD, co-authored by the VA and Department of Defense, caution medical providers against using benzodiazepines “due to lack of efficacy data and growing evidence for the potential risk of harm,” Dr. Bernardy wrote in the PTSD center’s current newsletter. In addition to her report in Stars and Stripes, Dr. Bernardy plans to publish the findings from her study in a medical journal in the near future.