Which drug is commonly prescribed for anxiety?
When faced with overwhelming anxiety symptoms such as intense panic, immobilizing fear, or persistent sleeplessness due to worry, the desire for relief can be strong. While medication can be helpful in managing anxiety, it is important to consider if pharmaceutical interventions are always the best solution.
There are various medications available for treating anxiety disorders, including both traditional anti-anxiety drugs and newer alternatives. Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan), have traditionally been used to alleviate anxiety on a short-term basis. These medications provide rapid relief, usually within 30 minutes to an hour, making them effective for acute anxiety episodes like panic attacks. However, they are not recommended for long-term use due to the potential for physical dependence. Benzodiazepines work by reducing nervous system activity, promoting relaxation. However, they can also cause side effects such as fatigue, lightheadedness, impaired coordination, difficulty focusing, memory disturbances, and gastrointestinal discomfort.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants have emerged as a recommended long-term approach to managing anxiety. Medications like fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), escitalopram (Lexapro), and citalopram (Celexa) are commonly prescribed for various anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). SSRIs take about 4 to 6 weeks to start alleviating anxiety symptoms and are not suitable for “as-needed” use. While SSRIs have a lower risk of dependency and abuse compared to benzodiazepines, they can still cause side effects such as tiredness, upset stomach, restlessness, drowsiness, weight fluctuations, diarrhea, sleep disturbances, sexual dysfunction, anxiousness, headaches, dry mouth, and excessive perspiration.
In addition to benzodiazepines and SSRIs, there are alternative medications that can be used for anxiety management. Buspirone (BuSpar) is a newer anti-anxiety medication that works by increasing serotonin levels and decreasing dopamine in the brain. It takes about two weeks to start working and is less sedating than benzodiazepines. Buspirone has a low risk of dependence and minimal withdrawal effects, making it a suitable option for older adults and those with a history of substance abuse. However, it is only effective for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and not other types of anxiety disorders. Common side effects of buspirone include nausea, headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, weight gain, upset stomach, constipation, nervousness, and dry mouth.
Beta-blockers like propranolol (Inderal) and atenolol (Tenormin) are primarily used for high blood pressure and heart-related issues but can also be prescribed off-label for anxiety. They work by blocking the effects of norepinephrine, a stress hormone involved in the fight-or-flight response. Beta-blockers are most effective for managing physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heart rate and trembling voice. They are commonly used for phobias, particularly social phobia and performance anxiety. However, beta-blockers do not address emotional symptoms of anxiety like worry. Side effects of beta-blockers include dizziness, sleepiness, weakness, fatigue, nausea, headache, constipation, and diarrhea.
Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Forfivo, Zyban) is an antidepressant that may be useful in treating anxiety and panic disorders. While it can exacerbate anxiety in some individuals, it can also help manage generalized anxiety and anxiety symptoms accompanying depression in others. Some studies suggest that bupropion may be as effective as SSRIs in treating depression with anxiety. Common side effects of bupropion include dizziness, nausea, dry mouth, drowsiness, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, and headache.
Hydroxyzine is an antihistamine commonly used for allergic reactions but can also be used to manage anxiety symptoms like tension and nervousness. It works by altering histamine and serotonin levels in the body, resulting in mood changes. Hydroxyzine is typically prescribed as a short-term solution for anxiety symptoms. Side effects of hydroxyzine include dry mouth, dizziness, confusion, headache, constipation, and drowsiness.
It is important to note that the information provided in this article is not sourced from any specific references.