New Therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

It has been characterized as the disease of doubt. Individuals with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) experience “pathological doubt,” unable to distinguish between what is possible, what is probable, and what is unlikely to happen, according the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Researchers at UAB (the University of Alabama at Birmingham) are investigating promising new drug therapies for OCD, a condition that effects more than 2 percent of Americans.

September 14, 2000

BIRMINGHAM, AL — It has been characterized as the disease of doubt. Individuals with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) experience “pathological doubt,” unable to distinguish between what is possible, what is probable, and what is unlikely to happen, according the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Researchers at UAB (the University of Alabama at Birmingham) are investigating promising new drug therapies for OCD, a condition that effects more than 2 percent of Americans.

Most people at one time or another experience obsessive thoughts; unwanted ideas that repeatedly well up in the victim's mind — or compulsive behaviors; repetitive hand washing, counting, checking, hoarding, or arranging. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder occurs when an individual experiences obsessions and compulsions for more than an hour each day, in a way that interferes with his/her life.

Standard drug therapy for OCD involves using selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), such as Prozac, Zoloft and others. UAB researchers in the department of psychiatry’s clinical research unit are investigating adding low doses of one of two neuroleptic medications — risperidone or haloperidol — to a patient’s SSRI regimen. Risperidone is currently approved as a treatment for schizophrenia and Haloperidol is used for both schizophrenia and Tourette’s Disorder.

“Our intention is to see if the combination of these new medications along with the SSRI’s will have a beneficial impact on one of the most disturbing facets of OCD, which is incidence of 'horrific thoughts,'” says Dr. Xiaohua Li, M.D., principal investigator for the study. “Horrific thoughts are vivid, intrusive thoughts. For example, the driver of a car that hits a pothole may become convinced that he hit a person, and return continuously to the location looking for the body.”

UAB researchers and patients from the first stage of the study are available for media interviews. Contact Bob Shepard, UAB Media Relations, at (205) 934-8934 or bshep@uab.edu.