A Novel and Abuse-Deterrent Medication for Anxiety Disorders: VistaGen PH94B

2 min read · 3 sections

As with all forms of anxiety, social anxiety disorder (SAD) can destroy our ability to connect with others. Oftentimes, anxiety can lead us to believe that we’re “different”, “too much”, or “not enough”. Someone with SAD may feel extreme fear or anxiety in social situations and feel uncomfortable meeting new people or simply having a conversation; this disorder often stems from a deep fear of being judged or rejected by those around us.

Luckily, there are now many different medicinal treatments for social anxiety disorder and other anxiety disorders, like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The one we’re most excited about at the moment at American Addiction Centers? A groundbreaking neuroactive nasal spray developed by VistaGen Therapeutics called PH94B. This new treatment is proving to be an honorable competitor against the benzodiazepine drug class in the treatment of SAD and other possibly anxiety disorders – without the immense risks for abuse and dependence that accompany “benzo” use.man in distress considering effective anxiety treatment

There is no doubt that benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam and diazepam, are a highly effective anxiety treatment for millions of Americans. However, these medications also carry certain liabilities, such as high rates of abuse and a potentially nasty withdrawal experience for those who become dependent on them.1 VistaGen’s new nasal spray, on the other hand, shows to be both an effective anxiolytic (a medication that treats anxiety) and non-addictive.2

The Details

VistaGen Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company that’s working on making a whole new series of safe medications for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and Central Nervous System disorders.3

As mentioned, PH94B is an easy-to-administer nasal spray. VistaGen’s neuroactive nasal spray works differently than benzodiazepines, delivering a safe steroid through the nose to subtly activate certain neurons in the amygdala. The amygdala is a part of the brain commonly associated with fear and anxiety regulation, and its stimulation in PH94B’s mechanism of action eventually leads to the gentle release of GABA, a naturally occurring amino acid in the brain that typically works as a neurotransmitter.3

According to VistaGen, PH94B “binds to nasal chemosensory receptors which activate neural circuits that lead to rapid suppression of fear and anxiety.” Benzos make our GABA receptive more open to receiving this chemical, unlike this nasal spray.

PH94B could potentially be the first FDA-approved medication for as-needed treatment of anxiety in patients who suffer from social anxiety disorder. While certain SSRIs and SNRIs are approved to treat SAD, it often takes them at least a couple of weeks to begin showing effectiveness.3

The Results

According to a double-blind study with 91 patients, PH94B did not present as addictive sedative, or having any placebo-like side effects.2

Perhaps even more interesting, PH94B also appears to have some positive long-term effects. In another double-blind, placebo-controlled study, people who had received PH94B experienced less severe peaks in their social anxiety. If anything, PH94B seems to encourage its users to need less of it later on, but more studies must be conducted to confirm any more long-term effects of it.2

The Risks of Benzodiazepines

As an organization focused on preventing and treating substance use disorders, American Addiction Centers understands first-hand the dependence liability of benzodiazepines and the high risk for their abuse. But there are still tons of other reasons that Benzodiazepines can be dangerous.woman using nasal spray as effective anxiety treatment

First, benzos aren’t exactly the best long-term medicinal solution for anxiety. People tend to develop a tolerance to benzos pretty quickly. The use of benzodiazepines can also lead to vehicle crashes, cognitive impairment, and can even increase the risk of hip fracture in adults over the age of 50.2

Benzos also sport discouraging data for their long-term efficacy, sometimes even worsening the symptoms of certain anxiety disorders in the long run and masking enduring mental health conditions. When someone uses benzos and receives therapy for their anxiety disorder, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder, the drug can actually act as a numbing agent and inhibit someone’s ability to work through their disorder in behavioral therapy.1

If you or a loved one is struggling with benzodiazepine addiction or the abuse of another drug, please reach out to American Addiction Centers today. Our admissions navigators can offer you a variety of long term and short-term solutions to your substance abuse issues, and help you find the perfect type of addiction care that will fit your financial and personal needs.


  1. Journal of Clinical Medicine. (2017). Benzodiazepines I: Upping the Care on Downers: The Evidence of Risks, Benefits, and Alternatives.
  2. VistaGen Therapeutics. (2020). PH94B Neuroactive Nasal Spray Acute Treatment of Anxiety in Adults with Social Anxiety Disorder.
  3. VistaGen Therapeutics. (2020). VistaGen Reports Positive Preclinical Data Differentiating Mechanism of Action of PH94B from Risk-Ridden Benzodiazepines
  4. American Family Physician. (2013). Risks Associated with Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use.
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