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Study,Jul/20: Investigation on the Effects of Atenolol for Treating Anxiety


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The full title of this Japanese/American study is "A Preliminary Investigation on the Effects of Atenolol for Treating Symptoms of Anxiety ".







Introduction: Anxiety disorders are among the most commonly diagnosed of psychiatric disorders. Many symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder are also anxiety-related. Traditional medications used to treat these disorders, such as antidepressants and benzodiazepines, are often ineffective, not well-tolerated, and can be habit forming. An alternative agent is, therefore, needed. Beta-blockers are one class of medication with potential to treat anxiety-related disorders; however, current evidence remains limited and requires further characterization. To this end, this retrospective study aims to present a novel preliminary report on the use of the beta-blocker, atenolol, to potentially treat anxiety-related disorders.


Materials and methods: Ninety-two patients were identified from outpatient military mental health clinics in Okinawa, Japan, who had received atenolol for mental health-related symptoms. Primary measures collected were the rates of patient-reported (1) general beneficial/positive effect of atenolol, (2) adverse effects from atenolol, and (3) preference of atenolol to propranolol. Data were collected from patients who were given binary response options to report their perceived experiences for each primary measure. This study was approved by the Naval Medical Center San Diego Institutional Review Board.


Results: The results showed 86% of patients reporting a positive effect and continuing to take atenolol, including 87% with a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder, 100% with diagnosis of other specified trauma- and stressor-related disorder, and 81% diagnosed with anxiety disorders. In total, 90% of patients denied adverse effects or found the adverse effects tolerable. Additionally, 100% of patients who had previously taken propranolol for anxiety reported that they preferred atenolol.


Conclusions: The present preliminary observational data suggests that atenolol may be well-tolerated and effective among persons with anxiety disorders. These data also suggest that atenolol may be more effective and better tolerated than propranolol, which is the most commonly prescribed beta-blocker for these conditions; however, more rigorously controlled empirical studies are needed to further substantiate this claim. Despite an overwhelmingly high rate of positive reports from patients' self-evaluations of atenolol treatment for anxiety-related disorders, this early investigation was not placebo-controlled nor double-blinded, and formal outcome measures were not assessed due to a lack of availability. More detailed examinations are needed to further determine whether atenolol is a viable alternative or augmenting agent to propranolol, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants for anxiety disorders and trauma-related disorders.


Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States 2020. This work is written by US Government employees and is in the public domain in the US.

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