There are a number of different types of anxiety disorders, the most common of which include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Depending upon the type and severity of symptoms, different medications may be more or less appropriate. Any other issues, like substance abuse, may also play a role in determining which kinds of medications – if any – should be utilized during treatment.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, and beta blockers are the most commonly prescribed types of medication when an anxiety disorder is diagnosed.
It is important to note that it can take some time to find the right medication(s) and/ or dosage. It is also important to recognize that no pill can cure an anxiety disorder. Rather, a comprehensive treatment program that utilizes a range of treatment services, including medication if necessary, is the best option for long-term and sustainable recovery.
Also known as benzodiazepines, anti-anxiety medications are often utilized due to their quick-acting nature and the immediate relief they can sometimes provide to patients. The benzodiazepines most commonly prescribed to patients struggling with anxiety include:
- Klonopin (especially social anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder)
- Ativan (especially panic disorder)
- Xanax (especially panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder)
Unfortunately, these medications are easily abused. Many patients take too many when feeling symptoms of anxiety or come to depend on them psychologically, feeling that they will be unable to function without them. Addiction can develop when abuse of these medications continues for the long term, and overdose is a risk as well, especially if the pills are used in combination with other drugs, including alcohol.
Antidepressant medications can be helpful in the treatment of certain anxiety disorders. These can take time to build up in the system and have an effect, making them slower acting than benzodiazepines. However, they are not addictive so there is no risk of abuse or overdose. Common antidepressants prescribed for the treatment of anxiety include:
- SSRIs (e.g., Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, Lexapro, Celexa) especially for the treatment of panic disorder, social anxiety, PTSD, and OCD
- SNRI (e.g., Effexor) especially for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder
- Antidepressants (e.g., Wellbutrin)
- Tricyclic antidepressants (e.g., Tofranil, Anafranil) especially for the treatment of panic disorder and OCD, respectively
- MAOIs (e.g., Parnate, Marplan, Nardil)
Physical symptoms of anxiety can be effectively addressed through the use of a beta blocker like Inderal. Sweating, shaking, hyperventilating, heart palpitations, and other anxiety-related symptoms that occur during panic attacks, when faced with the object of a phobia, or in anticipation of dealing with an anxiety-inducing situation can help to control these issues specifically. These may be prescribed for short periods or on an as-needed basis.
Risks of Anxiety Treatment Medications
Depending upon the medication, there are often side effects that can occur when using certain anxiety treatment medications. For some, the side effects are minimal or far worse than the anxiety symptoms experienced when not taking the medication. For others, increased psychotherapy and holistic measures to manage symptoms are the preferred methods of treatment.
Additionally, the long-term use of benzodiazepines can mean the risk of developing a substance abuse problem that can turn into an addiction. Prescription drug dependence can quickly become deadly, either due to the increased risk of accidents while under the influence or to overdose.
Does Your Loved One Need Dual Diagnosis Treatment?
The existence of an anxiety disorder is often intrusive in the patient’s life making it difficult for him or her to function healthfully. Treatment is the only answer to effectively address the symptoms as well as the underlying issues. When substance abuse too is a factor, Dual Diagnosis treatment may be the most helpful option.
Learn more about how a Dual Diagnosis treatment center can provide your loved one with the well-rounded treatment program they need to learn how to manage drug and alcohol abuse as well as anxiety when you contact us today.
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David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.