Anti-Shyness Drug To Hit
Market Within Year
By Auslan Cramb
Scotland Correspondent

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 by shyness.

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 granted."


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