Anxiety - Medicinal Approach to the Issue

Written On: October 12, 2015

By: Billie B. Hamilton

Anxiety may not be so severe and is many times brought under control through dietary changes, exercise and, in more complex cases, cognitive and behavior therapy. However, if the disorder becomes unbearable, patients may be prescribed some medications. In the majority of cases, doctors opt for benzodiazepines. The secret of benzodiazepines in the treatment for anxiety is their ability to calm patients and bring relief from all the unpleasant symptoms of the disorder.

Benzodiazepines are quite efficient in controlling the receptors of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter. As such it actually prevents excessive excitation of nerve cell and subsequently acts as the body’s natural tranquilizer. Taking all the mentioned facts into consideration, it is easy to conclude that benzodiazepines are actually depressants of the central nervous system. Therefore, their use should be strictly under supervision of a professional. Before prescribing this anti anxiety medication, a doctor should be completely sure that patient’s anxiety really requires medicamentous treatment. 

According to the length of their activity along with few more characteristics benzodiazepines are classified into short-acting and long–acting. Some members of the first group are temazepam and flurazepam while alprazolam, diazepam, lorazepam and several more belong to the second group.

When it comes to anxiety, the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines are alprazolam, diazepam, clonazepam, clorazepate, lorazepam and chlordiazepoxide. Each of these is a long-acting anti anxiety medication, successfully providing relief from all symptoms patients have to deal with. However, it is essential to mention that benzodiazepines are also drugs of choice in case of other disorders such as muscle spasms, insomnia and are additionally used in patients suffering from alcohol withdrawal symptoms. 

man holding his shoulder suffering muscle weakness As it is the case with any other drug, even benzodiazepines have certain side effects. For instance, they may trigger drowsiness or severe sedation which is usually associated with higher doses. Because of that, while being under treatment patients are advised not to operate any kind of machinery and to abstain from driving. In general, these powerful anxiolytics are well tolerated and may in rare cases trigger impaired coordination, muscle weakness, headache, fatigue and dizziness. Dry mouth and changes in appetite may occur as well. Addiction is yet another side effect, reported only in patients who have been prescribed benzodiazepines for a long period of time. This is why once the doctor chooses to discontinue the drug, he/she must be very careful and gradually reduce the dose of the drug, allowing the body to adjust to the changes and prevent potential withdrawal symptoms.

All in all, with a suitable dose and proper monitoring patients will not develop addiction or suffer any side effect of the drug and will feel relief from anxiety symptoms at the same time. They must not change the dose on their own or take more medication than recommended and certainly must not stop taking the drug abruptly. Doing so will only have detrimental effects on the body and increase the anxiety itself.