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Anxiety Medication

Medical therapy in managing anxiety is often used in conjunction with psychological therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy. Drugs for anxiety are many and in this article we shall take a brief look at their available medication that is often prescribed for patients with anxiety.

The basics

The important thing to remember regarding anxiety medication is that the treatment, though effective, does not offer a cure for the condition. In most cases, the effect is just temporary and if the treatment is stopped, patients tend to notice a recurrence of the anxiety attacks. It is for this reason that it is important to combine medical therapy with behavioural therapy.


Benzodiazepines are often called tranquilliser medications that help calm the nerves and help relax the patient. They are widely used as anti-anxiety medication. The commonly used treatments include Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam) and Ativan (lorazepam).

Once taken, benzodiazepines have a rapid onset of action and lead to mild sedation along with relaxation. However, they should be avoided in certain situations due to these effects. For example, taking benzodiazepines before driving can be dangerous. Long-term use of benzodiazepines can result in accumulation of the drug within the body and occasional over sedation. This can make the patient appeared confused and disoriented and in such situations, the drug may need to be stopped. Long-term use of benzodiazepines has been linked to the development of depression.


Beta-blockers are primarily used in managing heart disease and hypertension, but certain beta-blockers such as propranolol have been found to be particularly useful in treating anxiety. They work primarily by reducing the heart rate and keeping the levels of the stress hormone norepinephrine under check. By doing so, it reduces the physical symptoms that patients with anxiety experienced such as palpitations, sweating and shaking. Unfortunately it does not have any effect on the emotional component of anxiety attacks.

Antidepressant treatment

Certain antidepressant medication such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, monoamine oxidise inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants have been used to manage anxiety. In fact, antidepressant medication appears to be the first line of medical therapy in managing anxiety attacks as compared to benzodiazepines, primarily due to their lower side-effect profile.

The effect of antidepressant medication in treating anxiety can take a few weeks to kick in. As such, it is not useful in managing an acute attack and in such situations benzodiazepines are a better choice. Once the level of antidepressant medicine has reached the required levels in the body, the anxiety attacks can be kept at bay.

The commonly used antidepressants include Effexor (venlafaxine), Prozac (fluoxetine), Celexa (citalopram) and Paxil (paroxetine).

Unfortunately, as is the case with any medication, antidepressant treatments can be accompanied by a variety of side-effects. Common side-effects include nausea, headaches, weight gain, dizziness and excessive tiredness. Patients can also get addicted to this medication.


This is a mild tranquilliser drug that is often used as an anti-anxiety treatment. It has a slow onset of action and its effects kick in after a few weeks of treatment. The side-effect profile is similar to antidepressant treatments, but the chances of them occurring are rare.

Anti-anxiety treatments are a few but are not tremendously effective by themselves. Combination treatment with psychological therapy is more effective than drug therapy alone.

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