Inositol: a promising treatment of panic disorder

Inositol: a promising treatment of panic disorder

Inositol has been the focus of renewed research interest because it is a necessary building block of phosphatidyl-inositol, a molecule in the brain that plays a central role in the functioning of receptors that bind with several neurotransmitters including serotonin, norepinephrine and others. Research findings support that inositol taken in doses up to 20 grams per day reduces the severity and frequency of panic attacks by interfering with a molecule called m-CPP. The potential role of inositol as a treatment of panic disorder is important in view of the fact that currently available prescription medications are effective in only two thirds of patients who report panic attacks, have adverse effects and may lead to dependence (e.g. benzodiazepines).

A one month double-blind placebo controlled study enrolling 20 patients concluded that inositol (up to 18g/day) and fluvoxamine (up to 150 milligrams per day) were equally effective in reducing the frequency of panic attacks (Palatnik 2001). The average number of weekly panic attacks in the group taking inositol decreased by 4, compared to an average decrease by 2 in the group treated with fluvoxamine.

Emerging research findings for inositol as a treatment of other anxiety disorders

Findings of several small double-blind placebo-controlled studies show that large doses of inositol improve different anxiety conditions that respond to serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), including for example panic attacks, agoraphobia, and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. A 4-week double-blind crossover study concluded that inositol taken at a dose of 12 grams per day and imipramine, a prescription medication, are equally effective in reducing the frequency and severity of panic attacks and agoraphobia. Two small double-blind studies have been done on inositol for symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In one study patients taking inositol 18 grams per day showed significantly greater improvement compared to patients taking a placebo. In another small study, patients taking inositol 18 grams per day plus a placebo or a SSRI medication reported equivalent responses. 

Small study sizes limit significance of findings

Although many studies report beneficial effects of inositol on panic disorder and other anxiety disorders, the significance of findings is limited by the small number of studies completed and the small size of studies. Large prospective placebo-controlled studies are needed to confirm the above findings and to clarify the most effective and appropriate dosing strategies of inositol for panic disorder, agoraphobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

Few adverse effects

Some individuals who take inositol report mild transient side effects. Serious adverse effects have not been reported at doses of inositol that are effective against panic attacks.

To learn more about natural supplements and other non-pharmacologic treatments of anxiety check out my book “Anxiety: The Integrative Mental Health Solution.” 

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