Abuse of Anxiety Medications


Abuse of Anxiety Medications

It is natural to feel some anxiety when facing certain situations. Preparing for a test at school or a presentation at work, dealing with the prospect of losing your job, or waiting for the results of a medical test are all instances in which anxiety can be present.

Usually, once the situation is resolved, the anxiety disappears.


In these instances, it is generally not necessary to even begin taking anxiety drugs (actually they should be, and will be throughout the remainder of this article, as anti-anxiety drugs).

Sometimes, though, some people begin to feel anxious about just about everything in their lives. Some people may worry that they can't have both a career and a family at the same time, but as a result of the anxiety, they are unable to give full attention to either situation. Others may experience anxiety over financial situations or may feel as though they are in constant danger of "screwing up" and losing their jobs.

In some instances, talking to a counselor or trusted friend or associate can help a person cope with the constant feelings of anxiety. At other times, however, it may be necessary for a person to take anti-anxiety medication, at least for a brief period of time.

When a health care professional determines that the need for the use of anti-anxiety medication exists (and this is the only person who should determine this; one should not "self-diagnose" and try to obtain anti-anxiety medication in any other way), he has several types to choose from. The majority of anti-anxiety medications work by slowing down the central nervous system, thus making one feels less anxious.

What Are Some Most Anti-Anxiety Drugs?

The most common anti-anxiety drugs are in the benzodiazepine family. These include Xanax (Alprazolam) Klonopin (Clonazepam), Valium (Diazepam), and Ativan (Lorazepam).

Like many other drugs, some anti-anxiety drugs can have dual uses. Klonopin, for example, acts as both an anti-anxiety drug and a sleep aid. When used as a sleep aid, and taken exactly as prescribed and only when absolutely necessary, it generally does not have a "hangover" or "next day drowsiness" effect. As long as the person taking Klonopin can sleep for at least 7 to 8 hours, these usually won't occur.

Ativan is another anti-anxiety drug that works well in other situations. People who come to an emergency room or urgent care clinic complaining of chest pains may be given Ativan once it is determined that a heart attack has not occurred or is not immediately imminent. It relieves the chest pain and helps with the feelings of anxiety that may actually be making the symptoms worse.

Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed to people who are suffering from panic attacks. These attacks can come on suddenly, and benzodiazepines have the ability to work quickly, usually within thirty minutes to an hour.

Why Health Care Professionals Don't Prescribe Benzodiazepines

If a person does not experience sudden-onset panic or anxiety attacks, some health care professionals will consider trying other drugs besides benzodiazepines. This is a good thing, because unfortunately some of the medications in this family can become addictive, and, also unfortunately, are the ones that are most often abused.

When a health care professional does have a choice between benzodiazepines and other medications that can also help with anxiety, they will usually recommend that medications which contain SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) such as Celexa, and SSNIs (Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors) such as Effexor, be tried.

These medications work slower than those in the Benzodiazepines family, which means they are not suited for people who do suffer sudden-onset panic or anxiety attacks. However, those people who do not have this problem are good candidates for the SSRIs and SSNIs. In addition, SSRIs and SSNIs have fewer propensities to be addictive; therefore, the possibility of abuse happening with these drugs may be lower. This is not to say that SSRIs and SSNIs cannot be abused or become addictive. Any anti-anxiety drug that is taken in too high a dosage, or taken too often, can cause abuse and addiction.

How to Prevent Anti-Anxiety Drug Abuse or Addiction

First, don't be quick to ask for a prescription for anti-anxiety medication. Take some time to thoroughly assess the situation, and determine if this could be a short-term issue. If, however, you and your health care provider determine that it would be feasible for you to take an anti-anxiety medication, ask your doctor to start you out on the lowest dosage possible. It can always be increased, if necessary. Second, once you receive the prescription, read the dosage instructions completely and make sure you understand them. Make sure you are waiting the amount of time you should be before taking any more.

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