Specific phobias are among the most frequently diagnosed disorders in community with a twelve-month prevalence of 8.7% and a lifetime prevalence of 12.5%. Exposure-based therapies constitute the most effective treatment for this type of anxiety disorders. However, pharmacotherapies can still be considered for patients suffering from specific phobias in case they were non-adherent or resistant to exposure-based therapies or in case this kind of therapies was not accessible for them. Few data support the use of antidepressant in the treatment of specific phobias. A literature search via MedLine has been done in order to review all available studies in the domain of nonantidepressant pharmacotherapy of specific phobias. The importance of benzodiazepines such as diazepam, alprazolam and midazolam resides in the short-term reduction of subjective selfreported fear during the exposure to the feared object or situation. General anesthesia for the treatment of dental phobia does not seem to be efficient unless conducted with the inhalation anesthetic nitrous oxide which seems to be efficient on the short and on the long-term. Beta-adrenergic antagonists have been essayed with conflicting results. Cognitive enhancers such as D-cycloserine, glucocorticoids and yohimbine hydrochloride, seem to be more effective than placebo after a short term period of follow-up in treating specific phobia sympotms. In conclusion, promising efficient pharmacotherapies for specific phobias consists of drugs that enhance the efficacy of exposure-based therapies sessions by reducing anticipating phobia-related fear and/or by enhancing cognition during these sessions.
Keywords: Antidepressants, benzodiazepines, beta-adrenergic antagonists, cognitive enhancers, glucocorticoids, pharmacotherapy, specific phobias, yohimbine.