In a previous post I wrote about weighing the pros and cons of taking medication to treat your anxiety. One of the reasons many people decide not to take medication to treat their anxiety or other mental health disorders is because they have inaccurate information. There is a lot of wrong information out there about medication in general which is perpetuated by myths and half-truths. Unfortunately for all the good that the Internet does for patients (providing support, resources, and accurate information) there is also the dark side. The global power of the Internet can mean that misinformation can spread like a virus, infecting patients with fear. So let’s take a look at some of the more common myths about anti-anxiety medication and put these to rest.
One of the best things you can do as a patient is to become educated and informed about your treatment options. Medication may not be right for you. But at least know the real facts before you make your decision.
Myth #1: If you take anti-anxiety medication you will become addicted.
While it is true that some medications prescribed to treat anxiety may have a warning label that they may be habit forming doesn’t mean that you will automatically become an out of control dope addict if you take one. Yes there are people who abuse drugs including both prescription drugs and illegal drugs. There are those who take benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Ativan, etc) for example, and combine them with street drugs to get high. But this does not mean that the patient who has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and is taking doctor prescribed medication to treat that anxiety disorder is an addict. There is a huge difference between using a medication to treat the symptoms of a disorder and abusing a drug (taking it illegally without a prescription, or taking far more than a prescribed dosage, for the purpose of getting high or because you are behaviorally and physically dependent on the drug). There are plenty of patients who take their medication responsibly, only taking the dose prescribed by their doctor.
Please Note: If you do have any type of substance abuse or addiction problems you need to tell your doctor this information before they prescribe you anti-anxiety medication.
Myth # 2: Taking “natural” substances such as herbs, vitamins, and supplements is safer and better for you than taking a prescription medication to treat anxiety.
I am all for the holistic approach to treating mental illness. I am taking SAM-e, for example, a natural supplement to treat my depression. But there is something important you should know about supplements and that is that that they are not FDA regulated. That long list of warnings you get with your prescription medication may be totally absent on your supplements. This is because not only are they are not regulated, it may also be the case that there is little to no research about the side effects, interactions, or withdrawal symptoms for that particular supplement. Add to this, some supplements or vitamins may have extra ingredients or fillers that may be harmful. It is truly buyer beware when it comes to supplements.