Psychiatrists who practice conventional medicine may be losing some of their anxiety about homeopathy. A recent study reported a more than 50 percent favorable response rate for patients who used homeopathic remedies for major depression, social phobia or panic disorder. Researchers from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C., and private practitioners from the Hahnemann Medical Clinic, Albany, Calif., teamed up to conduct the research. The Boiron Foundation in Lyon, France, supported the study.

The researchers, Jonathon R.T. Davidson, M.D., Roger M. Morrison, M.D., et al., designed the study after recognizing the many drawbacks of conventional psychopharmacological treatments–hazardous drug interactions, overdose risk and unacceptable side effects. In addition, psychotherapy is often expensive and takes much time and effort. Conversely, ho-meopathic treatments are safe for children, pregnant women and the elderly, and they can be used alone or in combination with conventional treatments.

The study included 12 adults who had requested homeopathic treatment or received it on a physician’s recommendation after unsatisfactory responses to conventional therapies. The conventional treatments taken prior to the study included alprazolam, fluoxetine, clonazepam, bupropion and imipramine.

Six patients had social phobia; two had social phobia and panic disorder; and one each had a social phobia with residual attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, social phobia with major depression, major depression, and major depression with chronic fatigue syndrome, respectively.

Eleven of the participants received a single homeopathic remedy, and one received a series of different remedies over an 18-month period. Homeopathic remedies that were used include agentum nitricum, pulsatilla, natrum muriaticum, calcarea carbonica, ignatia and sepia.

Patients were monitored for seven to 80 weeks. The results, measured by a Numerical Clinical Global Improvement Scale, showed a 58 percent positive response rate to the homeopathic remedies. On a self-rated SCL-90 Scale (a way of measuring an outpatient’s psychological condition) and a Brief Social Phobia Scale, the positive response rate was 50 percent.

The researchers admit the study was an uncontrolled, open treatment study that needs further double-blind controlled trials. However, they believe growing physician and patient interest in homeopathy warranted their initial investigation.