- If you are nervous about the office karaoke party, or
anxious about meeting the prospective in-laws, then a drug to help may
soon be at hand.
Escitalopram, which relieves shyness and avoids the hangover that results
when alcohol is used to shed inhibitions, could be available on prescription
within a year, it was claimed yesterday.
The drug stimulates the brain to produce precise levels of seratonin, the
chemical that controls mood. Doctors are encouraged by results during clinical
trials and believe it could help thousands of people whose lives are blighted
Dr Martin Turner, a consultant psychiatrist at Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow,
who is helping to co-ordinate the trials, said the response from individuals
who had tried the drug had been positive.
He said: "Already we have had people telling us that they think they
have benefited from Escitalopram.
"Also there has been a very low drop-out rate among the volunteers
which indicates that they are happy with what is happening.
"The extent of social phobia varies in different sufferers. For example,
the thought of singing karaoke terrifies me as it will countless others.
"But for some people something as simple as attending a meeting or
going to the pub will be a terrifying ordeal. They will then make excuses
to avoid confronting their fears.
"It is important that these people realise that they do suffer from
a condition that can be treated. It is not a lost cause and this drug could
be very important for them."
The trials at the private HCI medical centre at Clydebank will have involved
250 volunteers by the time they are completed next May.
Psychologists estimate that as many as one in 15 people suffers from such
an acute form of "social awkwardness" that meeting people or
even a trip to the supermarket can cause anguish.
Andrea Francis, of the pharmaceutical company Lundbeck, said: "This
drug is for people who are scared to do things that most people take for