'Trust' Drug Aims To Tackle Social Phobias

May 23, 2008 08:01 AM
by Liz Colville
A new nasal spray is being created from the hormone oxytocin, the so-called “cuddle chemical,” that may make its users more trusting.

30-Second Summary

Researchers at Zurich University recently found that a nasal spray form of oxytocin, a naturally occurring hormone in humans, reduced activity in the amygdala region of the brain. Research subjects taking oxytocin “continued to trust strangers with their money—even after they were betrayed,” writes the BBC.

This apparent rise in the level of trust is encouraging for patients with social phobias, who are often prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac, in conjunction with psychotherapy or on their own.

One of the researchers, Professor Markus Heinrichs, believes that oxytocin “could also be a candidate for treating patients with autism.”

The hormone is currently in drug trials after several years of research. Some members of this same Zurich University team published a study in Nature magazine in 2005 that pointed to the connection between oxytocin and trust.

Other research has investigated the link between the amygdala and human responses like fear and anxiety, as well as the usefulness of drugs like SSRIs in the treatment of social anxiety or phobia.

A 2003 study looked at a possible connection between oxytocin and the symptoms of autism and Asperger’s syndrome, specifically repetitive behavior, and found improved behavior using synthetic oxytocin versus a placebo.

Headline Link: ‘Trust Drug may Cure Social Phobia’

Background: Research on social anxiety treatments

Related Topic: The role of oxytocin in autism and Asperger’s syndrome

Reference: Defining social anxiety disorders


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines