March 16, 2006

Patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD) could benefit from D-cycloserine, a drug used to treat tuberculosis, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. The study, conducted by Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, found that D-cycloserine, when added to standard SAD therapy regimens, could enhance the efficacy of that therapy.

In the double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 27 patients received 50 mg of D-cycloserine or placebo one hour before four out of five sessions of "exposure therapy"-- a method of treatment in which patients are exposed to feared objects or situations. During the sessions, patients were required to give speeches in front of other group members or while being filmed, and then listened to peer critiques of the speeches. Patients who received D-cycloserine reported fewer feelings of anxiety during and after the sessions than those who were given placebo.

"The results of this study offer encouraging preliminary support for the select use of DCS to help people with social anxieties learn more from therapy and achieve strong gains through relatively limited treatment," said Michael Otto, a professor of clinical psychology at Boston University and one of the study co-authors. "We hope to confirm these findings with additional larger studies."

SAD is the third most common psychiatric condition in the U.S., affecting more than 12 million people each year. If untreated, it can lead to significant impairments in vocational and social functionality.