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May 1985

Noradrenergic Function and the Mechanism of Action of Antianxiety TreatmentII. The Effect of Long-term Imipramine Treatment

Author Affiliations

From the Clinical Research Unit, Ribicoff Research Facilities, Connecticut Mental Health Center, Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1985;42(5):473-481. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1985.01790280055005

• Considerable preclinical and clinical evidence indicates that increased noradrenergic function is involved in the development of anxiety. Imipramine hydrochloride, which has complex effects on noradrenergic function in animals, is effective in patients with agoraphobia and panic disorder. To assess the effects of imipramine on noradrenergic function in patients, plasma levels of free 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG) and yohimbine-induced increases in plasma MHPG levels, anxiety-nervousness, blood pressure, and somatic symptoms were studied before and during long-term imipramine treatment in 11 patients meeting DSM-III criteria for agoraphobia with panic attacks. Long-term imipramine treatment significantly decreased baseline plasma MHPG levels by 38% and modestly potentiated yohimbine-induced increases in blood pressure, but it did not alter yohimbine-induced increases in plasma MHPG levels or in patient ratings of anxiety-nervousness. The therapeutic effects of imipramine in panic disorder may relate more to the decrease in norepinephrine turnover than to alterations of α2-adrenergic autoreceptor function.