“Anti-phobia” pill – early results

A pilot study on people terrified of heights showed that that an existing prescription pill helped to “dramatically reduce” their fear, reports Chemistry & Industry Magazine. In principle, the drug could be used to treat fear of spiders, needles, flying or any other kind of phobia, as well as post-traumatic stress and obsessive compulsive disorder. It might also be used to help people cope with their fears when they learn to to ski, skydive or any other activity which makes us scared.

The Chemistry & Industry report looks at the work of Michael Davis at Emory University School of Medicine in the US. He reveals that acrophobics given the drug D-cycloserine, currently used to treat TB, showed a dramatic reduction in fear after just two psychotherapy sessions compared with the usual eight. Davis says a study of people with a fear of public speaking is about to start.

According to Davis, the drug should work in almost any situation where a person is nervous. “It should help you get over whatever it is you are afraid of, as long as you face up to your fear,” claims Dr Davis.

The drug does not work on its own, but improves the effects of therapy because it speeds up the process of learning and forming memories.

Michael Otto, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, is so impressed with Davis’ results that his team plan to start a study of their own on panic attacks.

A full copy of the article is available from the SCI Press Office: Email: press@soci.org. Tel 020 7 598 1571 or 1573

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