Anxiolytics, also called anti-anxiety medications, are prescription drugs (i.e., a prescription from a doctor or psychiatrist is required) used to abolish symptoms of acute anxiety. These medications exert their effect after a short duration of administration. This property makes it easy to get habituated to using them regularly. This is why we usually prescribe for short-term use. Anxiolytics are not recommended for people with a history of substance abuse, and cannot be prescribed before identifying any underlying medical conditions that may be causing your symptoms. If the diagnosis of an anxiety disorder is made, the doctor will discuss treatment options with you. Specific medications will be determined based on the specific case and overall health status.
Generalized anxiety disorder(GAD) is defined as extreme worry or fear that lasts more than six months. One example is social phobia, which is characterized by being exaggeratedly anxious in social situations. Social phobia can even produce physical symptoms like profuse sweating and nausea. Over time, this type of disorder can be paralyzing and lead to social isolation.
Anxiolytics are used to treat symptoms of a variety of anxiety disorders. Their action is by targeting specific important neurotransmitters in the brain and decreasing abnormal excitability.
The use of anxiolytics often goes hand in hand with psychotherapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Together, they can help improve quality of life for people with anxiety disorders.
Some of the more frequently prescribed anxiolytics are benzodiazepines. These include:
• alprazolam (Xanax)
• chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
• clonazepam (Klonopin)
• diazepam (Valium)
• lorazepam (Ativan)
These medications are notorious for causing drowsiness or dizziness. Other side effects include lowered blood pressure, slowed breathing, and problems with memory. Long-term use can worsen those side effects.
These drugs can be addictive or habit-forming. People who continue to take anxiolytics for an extended period can develop a tolerance, which means their body will no longer respond to initial lower doses and will exponentially require higher doses to achieve the same effectiveness. Individuals with a history of substance abuse are especially at risk for developing this side effect.
Taking more than the prescribed dose may inadvertently lead to overdosing and ultimately coma or death.
Anti-anxiety medications may interact with other medications. Any over-the-counter and prescription medication in use must be declared to the doctor. Information about drug interactions and foods or dietary supplements is invaluable in order to avoid such items.