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 Anxiety Medication: Use, Side-Effects and Withdrawal

Anxiety Medication Overview:

anxiety medicationAnxiety medication is by far the most popularly prescribed medication for all of the psychiatric disorders. In recent years, the most commonly prescribed anxiety medications have included the benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Valium, Librium, Tranxene, Klonopin, Centrax, Ativan and Serax. Other drugs fall within the anxiety medication classification, and are used for various anxiety disorders such as Busbar, Nuerontin and the Beta Blockers.

Anxiety Medication: Benzodiazepines

The benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium etc) are easily the most commonly prescribed of the anxiety medications, followed by chlordiazepoxide (Librium, Librax). Clonazepam (Klonopin) also falls within this class, although it was originally used primarily to treat seizures. Benzodiazepines are usually relatively fast-acting medications and may take effect within an hour or less. Usually dosages are started at a low level and increased until symptoms are diminished. While they have relatively few side-effects, the most common side-effects are drowsiness, loss of coordination, fatigue, and mental slowing or confusion. Obviously they should be taken with caution during pregnancy, when driving vehicles and operating machinery. Also, benzodiazepines should not be combined with other medications including our alcohol, anesthetics, muscle relaxants and prescribed pain medications.


Benzodiazepines are noted to be an anxiety medication with potential for the development of tolerance, dependence, potential for abuse and withdrawal reactions. Theyíre usually prescribed for brief periods of time because of these concerns, and are optimally recommended to be used for several days/weeks. On-going, continuous treatment with benzodiazepines is not recommended for most individuals, however some patients may require long-term treatment. You should always consult your doctor before discontinuing benzodiazepines and should never stop abruptly. Withdrawal symptoms may occur upon discontinuing these medications, and may include anxiety, shakiness, headache, dizziness, sleeplessness, loss of appetite and in severe cases, fever, seizures and psychosis. Generally, when benzodiazapines have been taken for an extended period of time, the dosage is gradually tapered off before being completely stopped.

Benzodiazepines have been used for a variety of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Other Anxiety Medications:

While benzodiazepines make up the largest majority of prescriptions for the various anxiety disorders, other medications such as Busbar (buspirone), Neurontin (Gabapentin), the beta-blockers (propranolol, atenolol), tricyclic antidepressants, MAOIís and SSRIs are frequently prescribed for specific anxiety conditions. The non-benzodiazepine busbar is often used for treating generalized anxiety disorders. It is chemically similar to some of the antidepressants, but fortunately, does not have the dependence and negative withdrawal symptoms usually associated with the benzodiazepines. Neurontin is a medication primarily used to treat seizures, which also has been found to be effective in treating some of the mood and anxiety disorders, as well as in treating neuropathic pain. Beta-blockers are used primarily for heart conditions (such as high blood pressure), but are also helpful for stage fright and other anxiety conditions which include a palpitating heart. Antidepressants such as the tricyclics, SSRIs and MAOIís are also frequently used for treating anxiety disorders, but will be discussed on other pages of this web site.

(Health and Geriatric Psychologist)

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