The Barcelona-based Andero Lab has received a Leonardo grant of 40,000 euros from the BBVA Foundation for its research into the physiology and treatment of traumatic stress. In an interview published by El País, its founder, neuroscientist Raúl Andero Galí, explains what is known today about this pathology and the limitations offered by current psychiatric drugs to treat this and other ailments:
“The drugs now available in mental health, for non-neurological psychiatric disorders, are anxiolytics, to treat anxiety, and antidepressants. These drugs target receptors that are expressed almost everywhere in the brain. Sometimes they work and sometimes it is like driving a car with the accelerator and brake pressed together. The drug activates one area and inhibits another, because the receptors do different things in different areas. They are not very specific. This does not mean that we have to make changes in treatments; we have to continue to do what the psychologist or psychiatrist says. What we want to develop are drugs that, for example, are more targeted at the neurons and brain areas we want and not at the whole brain, as is usually the case with current drugs,” Raúl Andero explains to the interviewer.
The neuroscientist’s interest in traumatic stress “comes from the fact that it is the only psychiatric or psychological disorder that occurs as a result of a single event. Schizophrenia is not clear why it starts and some people don’t know when their depression began. In post-traumatic stress disorder, on the other hand, you know that there was an accident, the day and the date. This interests me because we have a huge therapeutic opportunity, we can do treatments.
Andero believes that we are still a long way from having a specific treatment for different types of traumatic stress: “We still don’t even have an effective treatment for traumatic stress. If we could find something that is more effective than what we already have, we would sign up. For everyday stress, I always recommend a very healthy diet, exercise, meditation and, above all, avoiding drugs”.
However, it may be that rather than avoiding drugs, patients with traumatic stress need to look for appropriate drugs. For example, as we have reported in this blog, scientific studies for the approval of MDMA as a drug for PTSD are well underway in the United States, and may be approved by the FDA before the end of 2023.
While this milestone is being achieved, another drug – in this case the anaesthetic ketamine – is being successfully applied for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. A new study has analysed detailed brain imaging data from individuals with chronic PTSD who were treated in a clinical trial with ketamine. The results suggest that the improvements in PTSD symptoms observed in the trial were related to specific ketamine-induced changes in connectivity between various brain regions.
It is important to remember that ketamine is the only psychoactive substance that can nowadays be legally applied in Spain for the treatment of mental illness. La Fundación Beckley Med, in agreement with Clínicas CITA, is one of the health centres that offer this treatment today.
Original article in El País (paywall).
–Ketamine treatment proves effective in post-traumatic stress disorder’. BMed, 22 June 2022.
–The pioneering MDMA study that would have put Spain at the forefront of the psychedelic renaissance’. BMed, 13 October 2022.
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