Alcohol and panic disorders co-occur at a rate that exceeds chance significantly. Early experimental work suggests that alcoholic subjects, compared to non-alcoholics, are less sensitive to sodium lactate and that alcohol intake reduces the response to a 35% CO2 challenge in Panic Disorder patients. The present study documents the direct pharmacological effect of ethanol infusion on CO2 induced panic.
According to a placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized, cross-over design 10 drug free panic disorder patients and 16 healthy volunteers underwent a 35% CO2 challenge after intravenous infusion of a moderate dose of ethanol on one test day and of placebo on another test day.
Compared to the placebo condition, the effect of the CO2 challenge was significantly smaller after ethanol infusion (P = 0.041).
A moderate dose of ethanol decreased the response to a 35% CO2 without inducing pre challenge sedation.
The results comfort earlier findings of a direct pharmacological effect of ethanol on panic.