Soon you may be able to buy a drug that can make you calm by mimicking the body's natural self-soothing process. But you wouldn't feel drugged. What would happen to people who suddenly became fearless without side-effects?
A group of European researchers discovered a ligand, or a chemical that binds with molecules, can soothe even the most anxious of creatures. As they write in an article published today in Science, they induced anxiety attacks in mice and men, administered the ligand XBD173, and found that their fear subsided immediately. The best part is that this treatment isn't addictive, doesn't take weeks to be effective, and doesn't make you feel dopey or drowsy.
According to a release from the authors of the study:
This finding suggests that the ligand, XBD173, might be a good candidate for use as a safe and fast-acting anti-anxiety agent. Current treatments like benzodiazepines often have unwanted side effects like sedation, tolerance, or symptoms of withdrawal after chronic use. Anti-depressant drugs are also sometimes administered to treat anxiety, but their beneficial effects only occur after several weeks of treatment. Looking for something new, Rainer Rupprecht and colleagues administered XBD173 to laboratory rats and observed that it prevented panic behavior almost immediately – without the rats building tolerance or any other unwanted side effects. They then performed a study among 70 healthy human men, involving a placebo group, and found that XBD173 initiated a fast anti-anxiety response without any withdrawal symptoms after prolonged use. The authors say that XBD173 promotes these calming effects through its modulation of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA, and they suggest the ligand be considered for use in future clinical applications.
There are few things I would want to know before gulping down this drug. First of all, is anxiety the same thing as fear? The reason I ask is that it sounds like this could be an anti-fear agent, which might prevent risk aversion. That's right: a super soldier drug. What I'm saying is that I would like to know exactly which of my emotions are being muted by this substance. Is it just that I feel more mellow at a party, or am I likely to walk into the street in front of a car because I'm fearless?
The hopeful part of this drug is that there are no side effects known so far. It would be great to have a drug that reduced anxiety without making you feel like your entire consciousness had been reduced. However, until that whole super soldier drug thing is resolved, I'm still little bit suspicious.