The term anxiety encompasses feelings of worry, fear, and unease. Although it is normal to experience some level of anxiety at times, intense or persistent anxiety may be indicative of an anxiety disorder. According to several large surveys, up to Medications are available to treat anxiety disorders. Doctors may prescribe medication alone or in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy CBT or another kind of therapy. In this article, we discuss the main types of anxiety medication and list their risks and side effects.
Several types of medication can treat the symptoms of anxiety. Although selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors SSRIs are a type of antidepressant , doctors commonly prescribe them to people with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder OCD.
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According to one article , doctors consider SSRIs to be the first-line drug treatment for anxiety. SSRIs work by stopping nerve cells in the brain from reabsorbing serotonin, which is a chemical that plays a vital role in mood regulation. These medications typically begin to take effect within 2 to 6 weeks , but they do not work for everyone. People usually take SSRIs for up to 12 months to treat anxiety, then gradually reduce the dosage. These drugs are not habit-forming, meaning that they do not usually lead to dependence. People should consult their doctor or physician before they start reducing or stopping their medication.
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Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors SNRIs are another class of antidepressant that treats depression and anxiety. Doctors may also prescribe them to treat some chronic pain conditions. These medications work by reducing the brain's reabsorption of the chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine. Tricyclic antidepressants TCAs are an older class of antidepressant drug.
Although they may be effective for the treatment of depression and anxiety, doctors often prescribe SSRIs instead, as they cause fewer side effects. However, TCAs may be useful for some people, especially if other medications do not provide relief. Benzodiazepines are a type of sedative drug that reduces the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as tense muscles.
These drugs also encourage relaxation, and their effects take place within a few minutes. Although they are highly effective for short-term issues, doctors rarely prescribe benzodiazepines because they become less effective over time and can be addictive. Due to these risks, experts suggest that doctors do not prescribe the continuous use of benzodiazepines for more than 1 month. Some people may take benzodiazepines to manage short-term anxiety.
For example, people with a fear of flying may take them before a flight.
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Many other medicines may help treat anxiety, although doctors usually only prescribe them if SSRIs or similar drugs do not work. Beta-blockers are a common medication for people with high blood pressure and heart conditions.
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However, doctors may prescribe them off-label for anxiety in certain situations. Beta-blockers reduce the effects of norepinephrine, meaning that they can relieve some of the physical symptoms of anxiety. Examples of beta-blockers include atenolol Tenormin and propranolol Inderal.
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Buspirone BuSpar works much more slowly than benzodiazepines and may not treat all types of anxiety disorder, but it causes fewer side effects and has a lower risk of dependency. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors MAOIs are one of the earliest types of antidepressant. Doctors may prescribe them off-label to treat the symptoms of panic disorder and social phobia.
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Types of MAOI include:. Antidepressants and other drugs for anxiety have the potential to cause side effects in some people. These often resolve after a few weeks, but it is crucial to see a doctor if they are intolerable or do not subside. Some doctors may recommend taking anxiety medications with food to minimize side effects, or taking them before bed, as long as the drug does not interfere with sleep. Benzodiazepines also carry certain risks. For example, they can cause physical dependence, even after a short period of use.
Withdrawal from benzodiazepines may lead to:.
People with asthma should avoid beta-blockers. But the effect of jet lag varies from trip to trip or person to person. Frequently suggested tactics such as avoiding naps, taking more daytime walks, or avoiding caffeine do not always work. As a result, most frequent travellers are on the lookout for a wonder drug that can mitigate the effect of jet lag. Unfortunately, a single wonder drug does not exist yet -- but there is an increasingly robust selection of remedies, all of which should be taken under the advisement, prescription or supervision of a physician.
Promoting wakefulness While most pills or medications used to battle jet lag help travellers sleep better, the newest prescription pills do the opposite: they help travellers stay awake and alert. Technically, these drugs are made to help people who suffer from the sleepiness that comes from night shift work, or as a result of maladies such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea.
Cephalon, the maker of Nuvigil, tried twice to get the drug officially approved to treat jet lag by the US Food and Drug Administration FDA , the federal agency that regulates pharmaceutical companies. Cephalon even went so far as to conduct clinical trials among adults flying from the US east coast to Paris to show how well it kept jet-lagged travellers alert.
However, the FDA turned the company down last December, questioning the data used to seek approval. It is thought that adjusting sleep patterns to the destination as quickly as possible helps reduce the effects of jet lag. They are fast acting put you to sleep quickly but short acting do not keep you down for long, usually three to five hours. Note: these drugs work faster if not taken immediately after a meal -- consider this if you plan to take them during a long flight that includes meal service.
To get better sleep in flight or upon arrival, or to worry less about sleep loss, some travellers turn to drugs normally prescribed to treat anxiety, such as Xanax alprazolam or Valium diazepam.
One of the most popular non-prescription drugs used by frequent travellers is Diphenhydramine , the active ingredient in products such as Benadryl, Sominex, Advil PM or Tylenol PM. It is used to treat mild allergies, motion sickness and insomnia. It is relatively short acting, but some travellers do report a hangover effect. Some travellers rely on alcohol to help them relax and get to sleep on the plane.
Dr Kirsch warns that those who take drugs to help them sleep during flight should be sure to avoid alcohol, drink plenty of water and stretch and move around as much possible before and after naps. In the United States, melatonin is sold as a food supplement, not a drug or medication.