Anti-anxiety medications ease the symptoms of anxiety or panic. Most people experience minor levels of anxiety as part of life. Medications for anxiety are necessary when a person's normal routines are interrupted by fear and worry. Doctors may prescribe antidepressants to treat anxiety because these medications are often effective for long periods and can have other benefits. Another class of medications, called benzodiazepines, is used exclusively for panic and anxiety disorders. Generalized anxiety disorder is one of the more common anxiety-related conditions. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, social phobia, and posttraumatic stress are other examples of mental health issues that may respond to treatment from anti-anxiety and anti-panic medication.
Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam) and Ativan (lorazepam) are the most frequently prescribed anti-anxiety medications. These medications work by reducing the overall amount of activity in the brain, leading to a calming effect. Anti-anxiety medications begin working quickly and have relatively few side effects. Drowsiness, poor coordination, and fuzzy thinking are the most common side effects of these medications. Doctors often prescribe the lowest effective dose to help minimize these effects. Still, people taking these medications should refrain from operating a motor vehicle until they know with certainty how the drugs affect them. Some prescriptions may call for a once-daily dose of these medications, while others may simply suggest that a patient take the medication only as necessary to control symptoms.
Unlike antidepressant medications, anti-anxiety medications do have potential for abuse. At higher doses, these drugs can produce a euphoric "high." Even when prescribed for legitimate reasons, benzodiazepines can be habit forming if a person takes too much of the drug too often. Withdrawal symptoms are possible if a person suddenly stops taking anti-anxiety medications. Doctors usually taper patients off these medications gradually rather than all at once. As with most mental health problems, talk therapy can also be an effective treatment strategy to deal with symptoms and potentially relieve anxiety altogether.
Last Update: 06-29-2012
Psychotropic Medication Articles