Pharmacotherapy in the Management of Anxiety and Pain During Acute Coronary Syndromes and the Risk of Developing Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

von Känel, Roland; Schmid, Jean‐Paul; Meister‐Langraf, Rebecca E.; Barth, Jürgen; Znoj, Hansjörg; Schnyder, Ulrich; Princip, Mary; Pazhenkottil, Aju P. (2021). Pharmacotherapy in the Management of Anxiety and Pain During Acute Coronary Syndromes and the Risk of Developing Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of the American Heart Association, 10(2), e018762. American Heart Association 10.1161/JAHA.120.018762

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BACKGROUND: Benzodiazepines and morphine are given during acute coronary syndromes (ACSs) to alleviate anxiety and pain,
and β-blockers may also reduce pain. ACS may induce posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms (PTSS). When taken
during trauma other than ACS, benzodiazepines increase the risk of PTSS, but it is unknown if benzodiazepines increase the
risk of PTSS in ACS. We examined the effects of drug exposure during ACS on the development of PTSS.
METHODS AND RESULTS: Study participants were 154 patients with a verified ACS. Baseline demographics, clinical variables,
and psychological measures were obtained through a medical history, through a psychometric assessment, and from patient
records, and used as covariates in linear regression analysis. Three months after ACS, the severity of PTSS was assessed with
the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale. During ACS, 37.7% of patients were exposed to benzodiazepines, whereas 72.1%
were exposed to morphine and 88.3% were exposed to β-blockers, but only 7.1% were exposed to antidepressants. Eighteen
(11.7%) patients developed clinical PTSD. Adjusting for all covariates, benzodiazepine use was significantly associated with
the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale total severity score (unstandardized coefficient B [SE], 0.589 [0.274]; partial r=0.18;
P=0.032) and the reexperiencing subscore (B [SE], 0.433 [0.217]; partial r=0.17; P=0.047). Patients exposed to benzodiazepines
had an almost 4-fold increased relative risk of developing clinical PTSD, adjusting for acute stress disorder symptoms
(odds ratio, 3.75; 95% CI, 1.31–10.77). Morphine, β-blockers, and antidepressants showed no predictive value.
CONCLUSIONS: Notwithstanding short-term antianxiety effects during ACS, benzodiazepine use might increase the risk of ACSinduced
PTSS with clinical significance, thereby compromising patients’ quality of life and prognosis.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Psychological and Behavioral Health

UniBE Contributor:

Znoj, Hans Jörg


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




American Heart Association




Sina Röthlisberger

Date Deposited:

08 Mar 2021 16:49

Last Modified:

14 Mar 2021 02:56

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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