Anxiety Medications: An Overview
Anxiety medications are now the most popularly prescribed medications by far by doctors for psychiatric disorders. The most commonly prescribed anxiety medications in recent years have included the benzodiazepine such as
Other medications that fall within the anxiety medication classification which are used for anxiety disorders include
and also the beta blockers.
Benzodiazepines for Anxiety Disorders:
The benzodiazepines including such anxiety medications as Xanax, Valium and Ativan, are easily the most common medications prescribed for anxiety followed by chlordiazepoxide (Librax, Librium) and Clonazepam (Klonopin), which also fall within this classification, although they are primarily used to treat seizures. The benzodiazepines are fast acting medications and frequently take effect within an hour or less. Dosages are most commonly started at a low level and increased until symptoms have been diminished. While they have relatively low levels of side effects, the most common side effects include loss of coordination, fatigue, drowsiness, mental slowing or confusion. These and most medications should be taken with caution during pregnancy, when driving vehicles or operating machinery. They should not be combined with other medications including muscle relaxants and prescribed pain medications, anesthetics or alcohol.
Benzodiazepines are not harmless and require some level of caution. They have been noted to have some potential for the development of tolerance, the potential for abuse, withdrawal reactions and dependence. They are ideally prescribed for brief periods of time because of these concerns and are optimally recommended to be used for several days to several weeks. Continuous treatment on an ongoing basis is not recommended for most people, however many patients are prescribed the benzodiazepines on a long-term basis. You should always consult your physician before discontinuing these anxiety medications and should never stop abruptly. Withdrawal symptoms are known to occur when discontinuing these medications and often include dizziness, headaches, shakiness, sleeplessness, loss of appetite and in more severe cases, fever, seizures and even occasionally psychosis. Most often, when these medications have been taken for an extended period of time, the physician will gradually taper off the dosage before completely being discontinued.
Benzodiazepines have been used for a variety of anxiety disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
Other Anxiety Medications:
Although benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed anxiety medications, others such as Busbar (buspirone), Neurontin (gabapentin), the beta-blockers (propranolol, atenolol), tricyclic antidepressants, MAOI’s and SSRI’s are frequently prescribed for specific anxiety conditions. Busbar, which is a non–benzodiazepine is frequently used for treating generalized anxiety disorders. It is more chemically similar to some of the antidepressants, but does not have the dependence and negative withdrawal symptoms usually associated with benzodiazepines. The seizure medication Neurontin has also been found to be effective in treating some mood and anxiety disorders, as well as for the treatment of neuropathic pain. Beta-blockers which are usually used for heart conditions (such as high blood pressure), have also been found to be helpful for stage fright and other anxiety conditions which include a palpitating heart. Several of the antidepressants such as the SSRI’s, tricyclics and MAOI’s are also commonly used for treating anxiety disorders in addition to the anxiety medications, and will be discussed on other pages of this website.
By Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist