Antianxiety Medications (Info about medicine for treatment of anxiety)

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Types of Anti-Anxiety Medications
There are several types of anti-anxiety medications or anxiolytics which are being used today. They include benzodiazepines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, azapirones, barbiturates, hydroxyzine, pregabalin and herbal drugs.

1. Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines are anti-anxiety medications or psychoactive drugs which are primarily used for the treatment of various anxiety disorders. They work by enhancing the inhibiting action of the neurotransmitter GABA or gamma-Aminobutyric acid in the brain, which in turn, slows function of the brain and the central nervous system.

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Benzodiazepines possess hypnotic, anxiolytic, sedative, anticonvulsant, amnesic and muscle relaxant actions, which have been studied to be useful in various conditions and disorders such as alcohol dependence, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, seizure, insomnia and agitation. Aside from these, Benzodiazepines are also often prescribed for the treatment of muscle spasms, parasomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD, delirium, and acute psychosis such as mania or schizophrenia.

Benzodiazepines come in several forms and they can be administered orally, intramuscularly, intravenously or rectally. Some of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines today include alprazolam or Xanax, chlrodiazepoxide or Librium, clonazepam or Klonopin, diazepam or Valium, etizolam or Etilaam, lorazepam or Ativan, and oxazepam or Serax.


Benzodiazepines are generally safe and well-tolerated if used for short-term treatment; however, like other types of anti-anxiety medications, they can also cause some temporary and less serious side effects such as drowsiness or dizziness, problems with concentration, decreased alertness, lack of coordination, decreased sex drive, nausea, changes in appetite, confusion and blurred vision. They may also cause more serious side effects such as: paradoxical effects including aggression, behavioral disinhibition, violence and impulsivity; and cognitive impairments including decreased IQ and problems with verbal learning and concentration.

If used for long term treatment, benzodiazepines have the tendency of causing or worsening cognitive deficits, anxiety and depression. They may also cause a general deterioration in the physical and mental health of the patient, along with having an altered perception of himself or herself and his or her environment and relationships.

Chronic use of benzodiazepines can also cause withdrawal symptoms, which is why physicians usually gradually taper the dosage of their patients instead of abruptly taking them off their medication. Some withdrawal symptoms which may be caused by benzodiazepines include gastric problems, tremors, insomnia, fearfulness, muscle spasms and agitation. Rarely, withdrawal from benzodiazepines may cause depersonalization, derealization, suicidal behavior, seizures and hypersensitivity to stimuli.

Most benzodiazepines are categorized as either FDA pregnancy category D or X, which means that they can harm a developing fetus if the mother takes them at anytime during the pregnancy. Because of this, benzodiazepines should never be taken by a patient who is pregnant or is trying to get pregnant. It is best for patients to inform their doctor if they are already pregnant or trying to get pregnant or are breastfeeding before taking any type of benzodiazepine or anti-anxiety medication.


It is also important to note that benzodiazepines offer the least benefits and the greatest risks in older patients. Studies show that the elderly have an increased risk of dependence to the benzodiazepines and are more sensitive to their adverse side effects such as daytime sedation, memory problems and impaired motor coordination. If used for long term treatment, benzodiazepines can also cause or worsen dementia, anxiety and depression in older patients.

2. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRIs
Although selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs are primarily used as antidepressants, they can also be used as anti-anxiety medications and can be prescribed for the treatment of a wide range of anxiety disorders and personality disorders. Some of the anxiety disorders that SSRIs can effectively be used for include social anxiety disorder or social phobia, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD, and panic disorder.

Some of the SSRIs which are commonly prescribed because of their anxiolytic effects include citalopram or Celexa, dapoxetine or Priligy, escitalopram or Lexapro, fluoxetine or Prozac, fluvoxamine or Luvox, paroxetine or Paxil, sertraline or Zoloft, and vilazodone or Viibryd. Using SSRIs for anxiety disorders may also cause some side effects, particularly during the first few weeks of treatment as the body adapts to the drug. Some of the commonly experienced side effects during treatment with SSRIs include fatigue, headaches, nausea or vomiting, dizziness or drowsiness, urinary retention, diarrhea, insomnia, weight loss or weight gain, changes in sexual desire or behavior and strange dreams.

SSRIs have also been associated with an increase in the risk of suicidal behavior or tendencies in patients below 24 years old. Because of this, prescriptions for SSRIs in younger patients have significantly reduced in the past couple of years. Most SSRIs belong to the FDA pregnancy category C, which means that there are not yet enough studies on their effects on a developing fetus, which is why it is important for patients to inform their physician first if they are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant. Additionally, breastfeeding mothers should also tell their physician that they are nursing before taking any SSRI for an anxiety disorder.

SSRIs should also not be used with certain medications such as MAOIs and other CNS depressants, as the combination can cause potentially life-threatening effects.

3. Azapirones
Azapirones are drugs which can be used either anti-anxiety medications or antipsychotic medications. They are also often used to augment the effects of certain antidepressants such as SSRIs. Some of the azapirones which are commonly used as anxiolytics or anti-anxiety medications include alnespirone, binospirone, buspirone, enilospirone, eptapirone, gepirone, ipsapirone, revospirone, tandospirone and zalospirone.

Azapirones can cause some common side effects such as headaches, restlessness, diarrhea, nausea and dizziness. Compared to other anxiolytics such as benzodiazepines, however, the adverse effects of azapirones are much more tolerable. Azapirones are also not addictive and they do not cause sedation and cognitive impairment. However, azapirones are less effective in the control of the symptoms of certain anxiety disorders in comparison with other anxiolytics and often require several weeks for their effects to be seen or felt.

4. Barbiturates
Barbiturates are central nervous system depressants which are also used as anti-anxiety medications. Their effects can vary from mild sedation to complete anesthesia. Because of their high risk of abuse and addiction, however, barbiturates are not often the anti-anxiety medication of choice by most physicians. Some examples of barbiturates include allobarbital, amobarbital, aprobarbital, alphenal, barbital, brallobarbital and phenobarbital.

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