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Cortisol Augmentation of Prolonged Exposure Therapy

This study has been completed.
Information provided by:
Bronx VA Medical Center Identifier:
First received: September 11, 2008
Last updated: July 26, 2012
Last verified: October 2010
This study seeks to examine the efficacy of hydrocortisone administration in the augmentation of the therapeutic effects of Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy, an empirically tested treatment shown to be effective in the the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The augmentation builds on both the translation of neuroscience findings demonstrating the effects of glucocorticoids (GCs) on learning, and on empirical clinical findings from other investigators demonstrating beneficial effects of GCs in reducing traumatic memories in trauma-exposed persons.

Condition Intervention
PTSD Behavioral: Prolonged Exposure therapy Drug: Hydrocortisone Drug: placebo

Study Type: Interventional
Study Design: Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Quadruple (Participant, Care Provider, Investigator, Outcomes Assessor)
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: Cortisol Augmentation of Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by Bronx VA Medical Center:

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Change in PTSD symptom severity as assessed by the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) [ Time Frame: Baseline (Week 0), endpoint (week 11) ]

Secondary Outcome Measures:
  • Cognitive performance (learning and retention in an episodic memory task, attention and working memory) [ Time Frame: Baseline (Week 0), endpoint (week 11) ]
  • Other measures of clinical outcome, psychological state and functioning [ Time Frame: Approximately 1 week prior to starting therapy (Week 0) and approximately 1 week after completing 10 weeks of therapy (week 11) ]
  • Biological measures associated with PTSD severity [ Time Frame: Approximately 1 week prior to starting therapy (Week 0) and approximately 1 week after completing 10 weeks of therapy (week 11) ]

Enrollment: 11
Study Start Date: July 2008
Study Completion Date: February 2011
Primary Completion Date: February 2011 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Arms Assigned Interventions
Active Comparator: 1
Prolonged Exposure therapy with Hydrocortisone
Behavioral: Prolonged Exposure therapy
10 weekly sessions
Drug: Hydrocortisone
30mg 45 minutes prior to each PE session including imaginal exposure (8 total)
Placebo Comparator: 2
Prolonged Exposure therapy with placebo
Behavioral: Prolonged Exposure therapy
10 weekly sessions
Drug: placebo


Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years and older   (Adult, Senior)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Veterans who experienced a criterion A trauma while deployed, and a current diagnosis of PTSD with a minimum of 6 months
  • Capable of understanding, reading and writing English

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Incapable and/or unwilling to provide written informed consent prior to participation
  • Unwilling and/or unable to discontinue current psychotherapy
  • Regular use of psychotropic medication including antidepressants, benzodiazepines, lithium, mood stabilizers, over-the-counter supplements (melatonin, kava-kava, ephedra)
  • Regular use of oral or inhaled steroids
  • Significant illness (e.g., type I or II diabetes requiring the use of insulin, HIV, AIDS, seizure disorder, anemia, Lyme disease, etc.)
  • The veteran, the veteran's physician, or the study physician think that the veteran's clinical state necessitates the prompt initiation of pharmacotherapy or other treatment that would preclude involvement in the study
  • Morbid obesity (VMI > 40)
  • Clinically significant laboratory abnormalities as determine during medical clearance procedures
  • For women, a positive pregnancy test
  • Heavy smoking (more than 2 packs a day)
  • Substance and/or alcohol abuse and/or dependence within the previous 6 months
  • Response of 3 or 4 on the suicidality items of the HDRS or an assessed serious suicide risk
  • Current psychosocial problems that might interfere with treatment compliance
  • A lifetime history of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder or PTSD due to a trauma not sustained in the combat theater
  Contacts and Locations
Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the Contacts provided below. For general information, see Learn About Clinical Studies.

Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT00751855

United States, New York
James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center
Bronx, New York, United States, 10468
Sponsors and Collaborators
VISN 3 Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center
  More Information

Responsible Party: Rachel Yehuda, James J. Peters VA Medical Center Identifier: NCT00751855     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: YEH-08-044
Study First Received: September 11, 2008
Last Updated: July 26, 2012

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Hydrocortisone 17-butyrate 21-propionate
Cortisol succinate
Hydrocortisone acetate
Anti-Inflammatory Agents processed this record on August 18, 2017