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Anti Anxiety Medication for Generalized Anxiety Disorder 

Anti anxiety medication – An overview: 

anti anxiety medicationThe use of anti anxiety medication is the leading biological approach to treating generalized anxiety disorder. Most people in our society are very familiar with the words “tranquilizer,” “Valium,” and “Xanax.” Other biological interventions include relaxation training, in which people learn to relax their muscles, and biofeedback in which individuals learn the voluntary control of underlying biological processes that may contribute to their problems. The history of the use of anti anxiety medication for generalized anxiety disorder goes back several decades. 

Anti anxiety medication - History of use for anxiety disorders: 

A family of drugs labeled as barbiturates were the primary biological treatment for anxiety disorders before the 1950’s.  These anti anxiety medications were used in low doses to calm people and help them to sleep and were referred to as sedative- hypnotic drugs. However, barbiturates were found to cause relatively serious problems with people making them drowsy, were found to be deadly in high doses, and eventually would lead to a physical dependence upon them. 


In the late 1940’s, a pharmacologist by the name of Frank Berger who was trying to make a more effective antibiotic medicine developed a compound called meprobamate that relaxed muscles and reduced anxiety. It was later released in the 1950’s as a new sedative- hypnotic medication under the brand name of Milltown. While this new anti anxiety medication still continued to cause great drowsiness, it was much less dangerous and less addictive than barbiturates. 

Then in the late 1950’s, a researcher by the name of Lowell Randall found that chlordiazepoxide, a member of the drug family called benzodiazepines, was able to tranquilize animals without making them extremely tired. This drug was actually discovered in the 1930’s but was set aside because it was believed to be relatively useless. After Randall’s discovery however, this anti anxiety medication was then marketed as a sedative- hypnotic drug under the brand name Librium. Several years later another benzodiazepine medication was developed and marketed under the name of diazepam or Valium. Most doctors and patients considered these medications to be very safe for use as sedative hypnotics and soon became the most widely prescribed medications in the United States. 

However, it was actually many years later that investigators came to understand the reasons for the effectiveness of these anti anxiety medications. Researchers began to recognize that there were specific neurons (nerve cells) in the brain that were affected by benzodiazepines and that these same receptor sites also were able to receive and be affected by the neurotransmitter GABA. Apparently, when benzodiazepines were received by certain neurons in the brain (GABA-A receptors), they actually increased the ability of GABA to bind to them which would then improve GABA’s ability to stop the firing of neurons which would then slow bodily arousal and reduce anxiety. 

Information from Abnormal Psychology by Ronald J. Comer 

Additional information and webpage by Paul Susic  MA Licensed Psychologist   Ph.D. Candidate  (Health and Geriatric Psychologist) 

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