A Drug used to Treat Alcoholism also Reduces Anxiety

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A medication used to treat alcoholism might be an effective anti-anxiety drug to help people get over their anxiety disorders without having all the dangerous side effects found in some current meds like Benzodiazepines.

Anti-Anxieties like Benzodiazepines

Most of us momentarily experience anxiety, which is a feeling of fear of dread or fear, during stressful circumstances. Nevertheless, people with anxiety disorders have feelings of anxiousness most days for at least six months, which negatively impacts their quality of life.

To help alleviate anxiety, some will take benzodiazepines, which are a class of anti-anxiety medications such as Valium and Xanax. Although these meds can be very effective in the short term, they may also form terrible side effects, such as sedation, amnesia, and poor coordination.

Benzodiazepines are also highly addictive and very dangerous to mix with other drugs, especially alcohol, and after long-term use, withdrawal can be deadly.

Repurposing Drugs 

The FDA-approved medication Disulfiram (DSF) is used for treating chronic alcoholism. DSF works by reducing an enzyme used to metabolize alcohol. As a result, those who take the medicine feel very ill when they drink alcohol.

This medication can also prevent a protein named FROUNT from being able to bind to cells through two chemokine receptors (CCR2 and CCR5). The Chemokine receptors dictate how the cells found in the immune system behave. However, they have been shown to play a critical role in regulating the emotional behaviour of mice.

The DSF Study

For the new study, scientists at the Tokyo University of Science looked to connect some of the past research by looking at if DSF had the potential to be used as an anti-anxiety med.

After giving mice DSF, and the other mice received the standard benzodiazepine diazepam, and the other group got no meds, the scientists looked at their behaviour on a complicated maze consisting of a platform shaped like a cross in which two of the four arms are made of walls, and two do not.

Mice who experience anxiety will usually spend most of the time in the areas containing the protective walls. Though, like the mice given the benzo, the mice treated with DSF spent most of their time in the mazes in unprotected areas than untreated mice, which had reduced anxiety.

The rodents were also tested to evaluate their memory, coordination, and balance. During this, the mice under the influence of DSF did not display any of the impairments found in the mice given diazepam.

The Future of DSF and Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are not the only anti-anxiety meds, and many rely on ones that don’t cause horrible side effects. Sadly, some fail to get relief even after trying various pharmaceuticals, as new ones are desperately needed.

It is still a little too soon to say if DSF will be the next greatest anti-anxiety med for treatments that work in mice will often fail in human trials. Still, as DSF is FDA-approved already, it will be much easier to test and get approval for another condition if it doesn’t work out as planned.

Suppose the effects of DSF in rodents will translate over to humans. Then, it may be a viable option for people who have not found an effective anti-anxiety medication or who want to avoid the nasty side effects and addiction of benzodiazepines.

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Dean Mathers


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