anxietyOne of the most common co-occurring disorders that accompanies addiction is anxiety. While drugs in the benzodiazepine family, such as Valium (diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam), are effective at combating anxiety disorders, they are also highly addictive and extremely dangerous if abused. Naturally, treating addicts with co-occurring disorders using addictive drugs is not a viable option, requiring doctors to often prescribe other drugs off-label – which in many cases are not effective.

New research has found that using a drug designed to treat obesity, may also treat anxiety, Science Daily reports. Researchers in Ottawa discovered a new biological pathway responsible for regulating anxiety and obesity.

The study suggests that a new drug, Trodusquemine, being actively used in clinical trials to treat obesity by suppressing appetite, could possibly be used for treating anxiety as well.

“Anxiety and obesity are growing problems in society,” said Dr. Hsiao-Huei Chen, associate professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa and a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. “Not only have we found a new biological pathway that regulates these two conditions, but we also found that they may be amenable to treatment with the same drug.”

When the researchers used Trodusquemine on mice, they found that both anxiety and obesity were reduced. Trodusquemine inhibits the activity of PTP1B, an enzyme that plays an important role in a molecular pathway that links a gene LMO4, anxiety, obesity and the body’s natural marijuana (endocannabinoid) system.

“Current treatments for anxiety disorders have addiction issues and other side effects. Our approach lets the brain fix itself by simply re-instating the appropriate level of PTP1B,” said Chen, a member of the University of Ottawa Brain and Mind Research Institute.

“It is our hope that we can quickly start clinical trials to determine if this novel drug may be able to treat obesity and anxiety at the same time,” added Chen.

The findings were published in Neuron.