A Common Antibiotic Might Help Stop PTSD


Doxycycline is pretty much everywhere. We use it to treat everything from acne to malaria. But despite being widely available for half a century, we’re only now looking at its side effects, and a fascinating one has been uncovered. Doxycycline, it turns out, might help with PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder happens because the brain wants to retain bad memories as a warning. This was fine when we were living in caves and fighting off wolves, since we were terrified all the time anyway. In present times, it can be a debilitating psychological disorder forcing people to constantly relive past trauma. Doxycycline, however, might make it more difficult to remember trauma in the first place.

While the exact mechanism behind PTSD is still unknown, to some degree, it is known that proteins called “matrix enzymes” somehow assist in the formation of bad memories. Doxycycline inhibits one of these proteins — metalloproteinase 9 — and can cross the blood/brain barrier, so in a controlled lab study where people were taught a fear response, it was found to reduce that response.

Whether this is a potential tool to treat PTSD in the field or not still needs to be studied. The good news is that it’s been cleared for human use for decades, so doctors can go straight to human trials instead of testing it on mice. And much like ‘Tetris therapy’, actual field tests will need to be done before you take a dose. But it’s a promising new use for a very old drug.

(via New Atlas)