Medication

10 Things You Need to Know About Anxiety Medication

The HealthCentral Editorial Team Jul 9th, 2012 (updated Jun 30th, 2016)
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One way to reduce anxiety is to take benzodiazepine medication. These anti-anxiety prescription drugs are quick-acting and take effect within 30 to 60 minutes. They can lower symptoms of anxiety in a short period of time and prevent panic attacks. However, there are drawbacks to benzodiapines. Read the following ten pieces of information before you start anti-anxiety medication.

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Everyone reacts differently to anxiety medication
Everyone reacts differently to anxiety medication

Each person metabolizes medication differently because it can react with certain foods and drinks. For some, anxiety medications work well, for others symptoms are reduced but remain. Others still may find that anxiety medications actually make them more anxious. It's a matter of trial and error to find the right medication and dosage for you.

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Medication is a good short-term solution for anxiety
Medication is a good short-term solution for anxiety

Anxiety medications are meant to be short-term solutions. Behavioral strategies, such as cognitive behaviorial therapy, have been found to work better for long-term help from anxiety. As your anxiety symptoms reduce with therapy, you can talk with your doctor about lowering your dosage or weaning yourself off the drug.

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There are many different medications available for anxiety
There are many different medications available for anxiety

There isn't just one medication for anxiety. Commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin. Each of these work differently and one may work for you better than another one. All of those work by reducing brain activity and will make you feel calmer.

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Anxiety Medications May Limit Your Other Activities
Anxiety Medications May Limit Your Other Activities

Benzodiazepines can cause drowsiness, lack of energy, confusion, impaired thinking and judgement, and blurred vision. These side effects may stop you from participating in other activities. You should not drive until you know how the medication will affect you. You may have problems at work or at school. You may feel sleepy or groggy.

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Anxiety medications may build up in your system
Anxiety medications may build up in your system

Anxiety medication metabolizes slowly. If you are taking benzodiazepine on a daily basis, the amount of medication in your system can build up. You run the risk of being overmedicated. If this happens, you may feel as if you are drunk. Others may think you're drunk.

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Anxiety medications can worsen symptoms in a few cases
Anxiety medications can worsen symptoms in a few cases

Although it doesn't occur often, some poeple find that anxiety medications have the opposite effect, making them more nervous or anxious. They may become irritable. Some patients may become aggressive or hostile, hallucinate, or experience periods of mania.

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Risk of drug Interactions with other medications or substances
Risk of drug Interactions with other medications or substances

Benzodiazepines, when used alone, are considered safe for short-term use. However, when these medications are combined with alcohol, prescription painkillers, antihistamines or sleeping pills, they can be dangerous. Speak with your doctor before combining your anxiety medications with any other medications.

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Anxiety medications should not be taken if you're pregnant
Anxiety medications should not be taken if you're pregnant

Anxiety medications can cross the placenta and reach the growing fetus. The baby can become dependent on these drugs and experience withdrawal symptoms after birth. Because of this risk, anxiety medications should be avoided when pregnant.

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Risk of addiction to benzodiazepines
Risk of addiction to benzodiazepines

Anxiety medications work well as a short-term solution to anxiety or panic attacks. For example, if you're scared of flying, a prescription will calm your fears, so you can reach your destination. When taken on a regular basis, you can become physically dependent on benzodiazepines and will need to wean off medication under the supervision of your doctor to reduce withdrawal symptoms.

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You may need more of the medication to get anxiety relief
You may need more of the medication to get anxiety relief

Anxiety medications lose their therapeutic value over time. You may need to increase your dosage accordingly, but it is important to speak with your doctor before adding more medication.