Yohimbine May Relieve Anxiety
Preliminary Study Shows Supplement
Helps Overcome Fear Faster
WebMD Medical News
April 7, 2004 -- About 19 million Americans
suffer from anxiety disorders -- everything from fear
of flying to obsessive compulsive disorders -- but now
researchers say that a supplement, which causes an adrenaline
rush, may turn out to be a new way to treat anxiety.
The drug called yohimbine, which is made
from the bark of the yohimbe tree, has a number of uses,
but it is probably best known as a treatment for impotence.
Mark Barad, MD, PhD, assistant professor in psychiatry
and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California,
Los Angeles Neuropsychiatric Institute tells WebMD that
yohimbine was used before Viagra so it is a drug that
people have a lot of experience with.
Barad and his colleagues are interested
in yohimbine because it "works on the adrenergic
system, which is the system that is associated with adrenaline."
He says adrenaline causes rapid heart beat and increased
metabolism that are the hallmarks of the so called "fight
or flight" response.
The researchers reasoned that if they could
manipulate the adrenergic system with medications that
turn it on or off, these drugs might also be useful in
"training" people to quickly overcome the fear
that drives anxiety.
His study is published in the March/April
issue of the journal Learning and Memory.
In the study mice were repeatedly exposed
to a fearful situation. The mice were then taught how
to "unlearn" this fear.
Prior to unlearning this fear, some of the
mice were given yohimbine, which triggers a rapid release
of adrenaline and symptoms of the "flight or fight
"Surprisingly, we found that yohimbine,
which increases anxiety, actually was useful helping mice
overcome fear faster." says Barad.
"We are very optimistic," he says
and hopes to get funding for human studies in the future.
He says he plans to first test the drug in people with
phobias such as fear of heights, but he predicts that
yohimbine will be most effective for people with the most
severe anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive
William Callahan, MD, assistant clinical
professor of psychiatry at the University of California,
Irvine tells WebMD that "additional drugs with fewer
side effects -- drugs that work in a different way from
current treatments -- are always welcome and would be
a good thing.
He cautions that even the most positive
mouse study is, at best, a preliminary finding. "Mice
are a lot different than humans," says Callahan,
who is a spokesman for the American Psychiatric Association.
Moreover, Callahan, who was not involved
in the study, cautions that drug treatment may not be
the best approach for people with anxiety disorders. He
says even the best drugs may not be useful over the course
of a lifetime. Other behavioral therapies may be a better
option for many patients, he explains.
Original source: http://www.webmd.com