Many treatments are available on prescription for anxiety disorders, so why are we still interested in studying new medications? This is the first question I asked myself when I started working in this field a couple of years ago.
First of all, I believe that long-term treatments for any sort of anxiety disorder should not be pharmacological.
GPs should encourage patients to start some process of self-understanding based on psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy as soon as possible. This is particularly true for children and young individuals who have more chances to learn how to control these debilitating and long lasting conditions.
So again, why do we need a new pill for anxiety?
Short and medium-term control of anxiety symptoms is another important theme to consider.
Recommended first-line pharmacological treatment are second generation antidepressants, whose efficacy in treating many anxiety disorders has been proven. Nevertheless antidepressants generally need 2 to 4 weeks to show benefits and this make them rather ineffective for symptomatic treatment of acute episodes such as panic attacks.
As a result of this, the heavily demonised benzodiazepines are still routinely prescribed by GPs with 1 million people in the UK alone identified as long-term prescribed benzodiazepine users, an average of 180 per general practice. In reality benzodiazepines should not be prescribed for more than 4 weeks to avoid the risk of addiction and the terrible withdrawal syndrome associated with sudden discontinuation after long-term uninterrupted use.
So in conclusion, I believe that a new medication for anxiety is needed. As a scientist, I am honoured to be able to contribute to this long lasting search.
In my next blog I will describe what I envision this new medication for anxiety should look like.