Thu. Oct 22nd, 2020

Anxiety Medications: Fact and Fiction

There are some simple drugs that are used to treat immediate anxiety and the truth is that they are very effective at doing so. These drugs are of a particular class and only meant to be used for the short term relief of serious anxiety and panic. It is fortunate that they are around.

Mother’s Little Helper

When it comes to relieving serious anxiety states, there is one class of drugs that stands out above the rest and that is the benzodiazepine class of drugs. This would include Valium, Ativan, Serax, and Xanax, all of which also act against panic disorders.

The effect is immediate. The first one to come about was Valium, also known as “mother’s little helper” in the addictive sense as it soon became a widely abused drug by housewives in the late 1960’s. It was thought to be a miracle cure for anxiety and a replacement for alcohol.


Not So Much Help

As it turned out, Valium ended up being highly addictive and so many people became hooked on it by the early 1970’s that the government had to put special restrictions on it. It continues to be used to this day and is very effective for acute anxiety but its reputation as “mother’s little helper” quickly became a bane.

Despite the bad reputation in got, new analogues and derivatives began to surface on the market not so long after and since they did not last as long, they were thought to be less addictive. Unfortunately, the use still has to be limited or long term use will lead to addiction.

Xanax Came Marching In

In 1981, the pharmaceutical company Upjohn released the drug alprazolam under the name Xanax and it was a big hit. It was said to be much less addictive than Valium and was highly recommended for anxiety and panic disorders.

The truth is that it really is the most effective drug for anxiety and panic. Aside from Valium (diazepam), Xanax is incredibly effective and fast acting. The problems started soon after though and abuse shot through the roof by the mid to late 1980’s.


The Value

These benzodiazepine drugs are very good for many reasons. Ativan (lorazepam) is one of the first line treatments along with diazepam for stopping seizures in epileptics. These drugs are also still the best for relieving acute anxiety but they are not for long term use.

In the short term, the benzodiazepine class of drugs have very few side effects and can actually save lives. For serious reactions to PTSD, there is no better treatment. For any traumatic situation where psychological stress is a factor, there is no better treatment.

The Down Side

Though the benzodiazepines are incredibly effective for short term treatment of anxiety and panic, they do not work in the long term. In fact, addiction sets in very fast and they become ineffective, leaving the patient physically addicted.

Coming off of these medications means prolonged and extreme anxiety that cannot be abated by any other medication so it is probably best to avoid use in the first place.