While anxiety relief medication can be very helpful for people who struggle with different types of anxiety disorders, it is not always the right choice for everyone. For some, taking certain anxiety prescriptions may result in unwanted and potentially dangerous side effects.
Why People Take Prescriptions For Anxiety
Anxiety medications may help treat mental health conditions like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD), panic disorders, and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They are used to reduce fear, promote relaxation and sleep, ease the mind, and help with panic attacks and/or anxious episodes.
Types of Anti-Anxiety Medications
There are several categories of anxiety medications, but the two main types are benzodiazepines and SSRIs. Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, are considered addictive and should only be used in the short-term. Brand name medications like Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan fall in the benzodiazepine category. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), on the other hand, are a more long-term solution for anxiety disorders. SSRIs include prescriptions like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, and Celexa. Antidepressants like SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) may also help ease symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety Medication Side Effects and Risks
Benzodiazepines and SSRIs may cause different kinds of side effects. Benzodiazepines may lead to complications like drowsiness, dizziness, poor coordination, slurred speech, memory problems, trouble concentrating, confusion, headache, blurred vision, and dependence. If someone stops using benzos suddenly, they may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. Benzo withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, increased anxiety, depression, pounding heart, and sweating. SSRIs are known to cause side effects like nausea, fatigue, agitation, weight gain, diarrhea, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, dry mouth, and increased sweating. Like benzos, SSRIs can also cause withdrawal when someone stops using them completely. Side effects of SSRI withdrawal may include irritability, increased anxiety, flu-like symptoms, and insomnia.
Easing Anxiety Without Medication
If you have an anxiety disorder but don’t want to risk the side effects of medication, you could always try weaning off of your prescription (with your doctor’s supervision and approval) and substitute medication with alternative treatments for anxiety. These tactics may include:
- Mind-clearing strategies
The treatments above may be beneficial for a lot of people, but some individuals require additional care. In some cases, they may not be able to stop using their medication at all because they have become dependent on it. These circumstances typically call for professional help, which will usually entail treatment for both the anxiety disorder and drug dependence.
Treatment For Anxiety & Substance Abuse
Someone who struggles with both a mental health condition and substance abuse has what is known as a co-occurring disorder or a dual diagnosis. If they leave either of these conditions untreated, a person could risk both disorders getting worse. Therefore, many substance abuse treatment facilities now offer programs specifically for people with co-occurring disorders.
Even if you don’t think you’re dependent on your anxiety medication, it never hurts to check in with your doctor or your psychologist about your prescription and how it makes you feel. If you ever get to a point where you are concerned about your medication, they will work with you to find a replacement or an alternative type of treatment.
For more information about anxiety and addiction, contact our team of mental health and substance abuse professionals by visiting us by calling 866-488-8484.