Have anxiety? Don’t we all! This is about anxiety medication and what you need to know about anti-anxiety drugs. I’m not a doctor so this is meant only as information. Helpful, I hope. What You Need to Know About Anti-Anxiety Drugs Medication can relieve some symptoms of anxiety, but it also comes with side effects and safety concerns, including the risk of addiction. My doctor prescribed some Librium for me a few years ago and it relieved most of my anxiety but when I felt I no longer needed it, I stopped cold turkey, without even telling him. It wasn’t easy and it was not a good idea. It took awhile but I was back to normal. So be sure to talk to your doctor before going off any anxiety medication. Since then, and learning about Dr. Sarno and TMS, I discovered many ways to relax and relieve anxiety that I don’t think anyone really needs drugs for that symptom. It’s caused 100 percent by our repressed emotions. I’ll list some ways I found to relax and relieve anxiety after I tell you more about anxiety medication from a recent article I read. It’s kind of like the commercial coming after a movie. But the commercial is a good one, with tips on relieving anxiety. One of the best reasons to use non-drug ways to relieve anxiety is, if anyone in the house or apartment accidentally (or purposely) takes the medication, it could be very harmful to them and even could be fatal. So keep the stuff out of the house and no one, not even you, can be hurt by it. The article says non-drug treatments may not relieve your anxiety as quickly as medication, but they can produce lasting results. I agree. And it’s great to stay off medication and let your mind relieve your anxiety. It can work fast, and it’s FREE. To decide if anxiety medication is right for you, it’s important to talk to your doctor and weigh the benefits against the drawbacks. Once you’ve researched your options, including other therapies and lifestyle changes that may help, you can make an informed decision. The article I will quote from, paraphrase, and add my own thoughts and experiences, contains these topics: Understanding anxiety medication Anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazsepines) Other types of medications for anxiety Safety concerns and risk factors Deciding if anxiety medication is right for you Medication alone is not enough Guidelines for taking anxiety medication Drug dependence and withdrawal. Okay, let’s get started. Understanding anxiety medication This information is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. If you are taking a medication for anxiety, do not change your dosage without consulting your physician! Many different types of medications are used in the treatment of anxiety disorders, including traditional anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines, and newer options like antidepressants and beta-blockers. These medications can be very effective, but they shouldn’t be thought of as a cure. Anxiety medication can provide temporary relief, but it doesn’t treat the underlying cause of the anxiety disorder. Once you stop taking the drug, the anxiety symptoms often return in full force. I know this is true, from applying TMS to my anxiety. This past year has not been easy, but a fantastic learning experience, discovering TMS, following Dr. Sarno’s 12 Daily Reminders on healing through TMS, and learning new natural ways to relieve anxiety. The 12 Daily Reminders: 1.The pain is due to TMS, not to a structural abnormality 2.The direct reason for the pain is mild oxygen deprivation 3.TMS is a harmless condition caused by my repressed emotions 4.The principal emotion is my repressed ANGER 5.TMS exists only to distract my attentions from the emotions 6.Since my back is basically normal there is nothing to fear 7.Therefore,physical activity is not dangerous 8.And I MUST resume all normal physical activity 9.I will not be concerned or intimidated by the pain 10.I will shift my attention from pain to the emotional issues 11.I intend to be in control-NOT my subconscious mind 12.I must think Psychological at all times, NOT physical. It’s important to be aware of the risks of anxiety medication, too. Anxiety medication can cause a wide range of unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side effects. Many medications for anxiety are also habit forming and physically addictive, making it difficult to stop taking them once you’ve started. As I’ve said, don’t quit taking anxiety medication cold turkey. Ask your doctor how to get off of it when you feel you don’t need it anymore, maybe because you’ve found ways to relax without medication. The bottom line If you have severe anxiety that’s interfering with your ability to function, medication may be right for you. However, many people use anti-anxiety medication when therapy, exercise, or self-help strategies would work just as well or better—minus the side effects and risks. Therapy and self-help strategies can help you get to the bottom of your underlying issues and develop the tools to beat anxiety for good. So while drug treatment can be beneficial, it’s by no means the only answer. There are other effective treatment approaches that can be taken in addition to or instead of medications. It's up to you to evaluate your options and decide what's best for you. Anti-anxiety drugs (tranquilizers / benzodiazepines) Anti-anxiety drugs, also known as tranquilizers, are medications that relieve anxiety by slowing down the central nervous system. Their relaxing and calming effects have made them very popular: anti-anxiety drugs are the most widely prescribed type of medication for anxiety. They are also prescribed as sleeping pills and muscle relaxants. Benzodiazepines are the most common class of anti-anxiety drugs. They include: Xanax (alprazolam) Klonopin (clonazepam) Valium (diazepam) Ativan (lorazepam) Benzodiazepines are fast acting—typically bringing relief within thirty minutes to an hour. Because they work quickly, benzodiazepines are very effective when taken during a panic attack or another overwhelming anxiety episode. But despite their potent anti-anxiety effects, they have their drawbacks. Side effects of anti-anxiety drugs Anti-anxiety drugs like benzodiazepines work by reducing brain activity. While this temporarily relieves anxiety, it can also lead to unwanted side effects. The higher the dose, the more pronounced these side effects typically become. However, some people feel sleepy, foggy, and uncoordinated even on low doses of benzodiazepines, which can cause problems with work, school, or everyday activities such as driving. Some even feel a medication hangover the next day. Because benzodiazepines are metabolized slowly, the medication can build up in the body when used over longer periods of time. The result is over sedation. People who are over sedated may look like they’re drunk. And don’t drink anything alcoholic while on any medication. Common side-effects of benzodiazepines or tranquilizers Drowsiness, lack of energy Clumsiness, slow reflexes Slurred speech Confusion and disorientation Depression Dizziness, lightheadedness Impaired thinking and judgment Memory loss, forgetfulness Nausea, stomach upset Blurred or double vision Benzodiazepines are also associated with depression. Long-term benzodiazepine users are often depressed, and higher doses are believed to increase the risk of both depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts and feelings. Furthermore, benzodiazepines can cause emotional blunting or numbness. The medication relieves the anxiety, but it also blocks feelings of pleasure or pain. Paradoxical effects of anti-anxiety drugs Despite their sedating properties, some people who take anti-anxiety medication experience paradoxical excitement. The most common paradoxical reactions are increased anxiety, irritability, and agitation. However, more severe effects can also occur, including: Mania Hostility and rage Aggressive or impulsive behavior Hallucinations While rare, these adverse effects are dangerous. Paradoxical reactions to these anxiety medications are most common in children, the elderly, and people with developmental disabilities. Other types of medications for anxiety Because of the many safety concerns linked to anti-anxiety drugs, other medications for treating anxiety have gained in popularity. The alternatives to the anti-anxiety tranquilizers include antidepressants, buspirone, and beta blockers. Antidepressant medications for anxiety Many medications originally approved for the treatment of depression have been found to relieve symptoms of anxiety. These include certain selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and the newer atypical antidepressants. Antidepressants are often preferred over the traditional anti-anxiety drugs because the risk for dependency and abuse is smaller. However, antidepressants take up to 4 to 6 weeks to begin relieving anxiety symptoms, so they can’t be taken “as needed.” For example, antidepressants wouldn’t help at all if you waited until you were having a panic attack to take them. Their use is limited to chronic anxiety problems that require ongoing treatment. The antidepressants most widely prescribed for anxiety are SSRIs such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, and Celexa. These work by regulating serotonin levels in the brain to elevate mood and have been used to treat panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Common side effects include: Nausea Nervousness Headaches Sleepiness Sexual dysfunction Dizziness Stomach upset Weight gain Although physical dependence is not as quick to develop with antidepressants, withdrawal can still be an issue. If discontinued too quickly, antidepressant withdrawal can trigger symptoms such as extreme depression and fatigue, irritability, anxiety, flu-like symptoms, and insomnia. Antidepressant suicide risk All antidepressants are required by the FDA to carry a warning about the risk of suicidal thoughts, hostility, and agitation. There is also the risk that antidepressants will cause an increase, rather than a decrease, in depression and anxiety. Buspirone (BuSpar) Buspirone, also known by the brand name BuSpar, is a newer anti-anxiety drug that acts as a mild tranquilizer. Buspirone relieves anxiety by increasing serotonin in the brain as the SSRIs do and decreasing dopamine. Compared to traditional anti-anxiety medications like Xanax, buspirone is slow acting. It takes about two weeks to start working on anxiety. However, it has several advantages over the older anti-anxiety drugs: it’s not as sedating, it doesn’t impair memory and coordination, it’s not very addictive, and the withdrawal effects are minimal. Common side effects of buspirone include: Nausea Headaches Dizziness Drowsiness Upset stomach Constipation Diarrhea Dry mouth Since the risk of dependence is low and it has no serious drug interactions, buspirone is a good option for older individuals and people with a history of substance abuse. However, its effectiveness is limited. It works for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), but doesn’t seem to help the other types of anxiety disorders. Beta blocker medications for anxiety Beta blockers are a type of medication used to treat high blood pressure and heart problems. However, beta blockers are also prescribed off-label for anxiety. Beta blockers work by blocking the effects of nor epinephrine, a stress hormone involved in the fight-or-flight response. This helps control the physical symptoms of anxiety such as rapid heart rate, a trembling voice, sweating, dizziness, and shaky hands. Because beta blockers don’t affect the emotional symptoms of anxiety such as worry, they’re most helpful for phobias, particularly social phobia and performance anxiety.If you’re anticipating a specific anxiety-producing situation (such as giving a speech), taking a beta blocker in advance can help reduce your “nerves.” Beta blockers include drugs such as propranolol (Inderal) and atenolol (Tenormin). Common side effects include: Light-headedness Sleepiness Nausea Unusually slow pulse Anti-anxiety medication safety concerns and risk factors Beyond the common side effects, medication for anxiety comes with additional risks. While the tranquilizing anti-anxiety drugs are relatively safe when taken only occasionally and in small doses, they can lead to severe problems when combined with other substances or taken over long periods of time. Furthermore, some people will have adverse reactions to any amount of anti-anxiety medication. They are not safe for everyone, even when used responsibly. Drug interactions and overdose Used alone, anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax or Valium rarely cause fatal overdose, even when taken in large doses. But when combined with other central nervous system depressants, the toxic effects of these anxiety medications increase. Taking anti-anxiety medication with alcohol, prescription painkillers, or sleeping pills can be deadly. The list is long of movie, television, and rock stars who have died after taking medications for any number of reasons and drinking alcohol while on them. Heath Ledger and River Phoenix are just two recent examples. Both young and very talented, but they did not find natural ways to deal with their emotional problems and paid the price with their lives. It’s a tragedy they didn’t know about TMS and the many ways of solving our problems and relaxing without drugs or alcohol. Dangerous drug interactions can also occur when anti-anxiety drugs are taken with antihistamines, which are found in many over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines. Antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft can also heighten their toxicity. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist Anti-anxiety drug risk factors before combining medications. Anyone who takes anti-anxiety medication can experience unpleasant or dangerous side effects. But certain individuals are at a higher risk: People over 65. Older adults are more sensitive to the sedating effects of anti-anxiety medication. Even small doses can cause confusion, amnesia, loss of balance, and cognitive impairment that looks like dementia. Anti-anxiety drug use in the elderly is associated with an increased risk of falls, broken hips and legs, and car accidents. Pregnant women. Expectant mothers should avoid anti-anxiety drugs. Since these anxiety medications cross the placenta, their use during pregnancy can lead to dependence in the baby. Following birth, the baby will then go through withdrawal, with symptoms such as muscle weakness, irritability, sleep and breathing problems, and trembling. These anxiety drugs are excreted in breast milk, so they should be avoided while breastfeeding, too. People with a history of substance abuse. Anyone with a current or former problem with alcohol or drugs should avoid anti-anxiety drugs or use them only with extreme caution. The greatest benefit of benzodiazepines is that they work quickly, but this also makes them addictive. This can quickly lead to their abuse, often in dangerous combination with alcohol or other illicit drugs. The connection between anxiety medication and accidents Anti-anxiety medication causes drowsiness and poor coordination, which contributes to accidents at home, at work, and on the road. Studies show that taking anti-anxiety medication increases your risk of having a serious traffic accident. Deciding if anxiety medication is right for you If you’re trying to decide whether or not to treat your anxiety with medication, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons in conjunction with your doctor. It’s also important to learn about the common side effects of the anxiety medication you are considering. Side effects of anxiety medication range from mild nuisances such as dry mouth to more severe problems such as acute nausea or pronounced weight gain. For any anxiety medication, you will have to balance the side effects against the benefits. Questions to ask yourself and a mental health professional Is medication the best option for my anxiety problem? Am I willing to put up with unpleasant side effects in return for anxiety relief? What non-drug treatments for anxiety might help? Do I have the time and am I willing to pursue non-drug treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy? What self-help strategies might help me get my anxiety under control? If I decide to take anxiety medication, should I pursue other therapy as well? Questions to ask your doctor How will the medication help my anxiety? What are the drug’s common side effects? Are there any food and drinks I will need to avoid? How will this drug interact with my other prescriptions? How long will I have to take the anxiety medication? Will withdrawing from the medication be difficult? Will my anxiety return when I stop taking the medication? Medication alone is not enough Remember, anxiety medications aren’t a cure. Medication may treat some symptoms of anxiety, but can’t change the underlying issues and situations in your life that are making you anxious. Anxiety medication won’t solve your problems if you’re anxious because of mounting bills, a tendency to jump to “worst-case scenarios”, or an unhealthy relationship. That’s where therapy and other lifestyle changes come in. There are many treatment alternatives to medication, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is widely accepted to be more effective for anxiety than drugs. To overcome anxiety for good, you may also need to make major changes in your life. Lifestyle changes that can make a difference in anxiety levels include regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a healthy diet. Other effective treatments for anxiety include talk therapy, meditation, biofeedback, hypnosis, and acupuncture. The advantage of non-drug treatments for anxiety is that they produce lasting changes and long-term relief. If your anxiety is so severe that it interferes with therapy, medication may be useful in the short-term to get your symptoms under control. Once your anxiety is at a manageable level, other forms of behavior and talk therapy can be successfully pursued. Guidelines for taking anxiety medication If you decide to take medication for your anxiety disorder, it is important to learn all you can about your prescription and to take it as directed. The more you know about your anxiety medication, the better equipped you’ll be to identify and deal with side effects, avoid dangerous drug interactions, and minimize other medication risks. Some suggestions if you decide to take anxiety medication: Be patient. It takes time for most anxiety medications to reach their full therapeutic effect. While you may want immediate relief, it’s important to have realistic expectations. You will need to work closely with your doctor to find the right dosage and evaluate the anxiety drug’s effectiveness. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol and anxiety medications don’t mix. The combination can even be lethal. But even in less toxic doses, alcohol and anxiety medication can cause poor coordination and impaired thinking, increasing the risk of motor vehicle accidents and other injuries. Monitor your medication response. Keep a close eye on your reaction to the anxiety medication, including any physical and emotional changes you’re experiencing. Everyone reacts differently to medications, so it’s impossible to predict what side effects you will have or how well your anxiety drug will work. If you’re taking benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, etc.), don’t drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how the drug affects you. Talk to your doctor. Be open and honest about side effects your anxiety drug is causing. Don’t be afraid to discuss problems or concerns. And while you should never stop your anxiety medication without talking to your doctor first, ultimately the decision is up to you. If you’re unhappy with how the pills make you feel, ask your doctor to help you taper off. Continue therapy. Medication can control the symptoms of anxiety, but it doesn’t treat the underlying problem. Therefore, it’s crucial to pursue therapy or some other form of anxiety treatment. Therapy can help you get to the root of your anxiety problem and develop better coping skills. If you're taking a benzodiazepine Make regular appointments with a psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders and who is up on the latest research on benzodiazepines and other anxiety medications and therapies. DO NOT discontinue your medication without talking to your psychiatrist first. If you’ve been taking benzodiazepines for over a month, you should gradually reduce your dose under your doctor’s supervision. Finding the right dosage is a trial and error process, but you should be concerned if it keeps increasing. If you need higher and higher doses to achieve the same effect, this is a sign of a developing drug dependency. Anti-anxiety drug dependence and withdrawal Anti-anxiety medications including popular benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan are meant for short-term use. However, many people take anti-anxiety drugs for long periods of time. This is risky because, when taken regularly, benzodiazepines quickly lead to physical dependence. Drug tolerance is also common, with increasingly larger doses needed to get the same anxiety relief as before. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, benzodiazepines lose their therapeutic anti-anxiety effect after 4 to 6 months of regular use. Most people become addicted to their anti-anxiety drug within a couple of months, but problems may arise sooner. For some, drug dependency develops after a few short weeks. Once you’re physically dependent on an anxiety medication, it’s difficult to stop taking it. The body is used to the medication, so withdrawal symptoms occur if the dose is decreased or discontinued. Psychological dependence can be an issue, too. If you’ve been relying on an anti-anxiety drug to keep your anxiety in check, you may lose confidence in your own abilities to deal with life’s difficulties and start to think you “need” the medication to survive. You may be dependent on benzodiazepines if: You have taken benzodiazepines for four months or longer. You rely on your pills to cope. You have ever cut down or stopped taking your pills and have felt ill or anxious or experienced unusual symptoms. You feel your pills are not having the same effect as when you first started taking them. You take an extra pill during a stressful time. You tried cutting down or stopped taking your pills and could not sleep a wink. You have increased your dose. You have increased your alcohol intake. The benzodiazepines are interfering with your life in some way (sick days off work, family or relationship problems, difficulty coping, difficulty remembering things). You always make sure you never run out of your pills. You carry your pills with you “just in case.” Source: Reconnexion Inc. If you’re physically dependant on anti-anxiety medication and would like to quit, it’s important to do so under the guidance of a medical health professional. The key is to slowly decrease your dose over a period of time. If you abruptly stop taking your medication, you may experience severe withdrawal symptoms such as: Increased anxiety Insomnia Confusion Pounding heart Sweating Shaking Gradually tapering off the drug will help minimize the withdrawal reaction. However, if you’ve taken anti-anxiety medication for a few months, you may still experience some withdrawal symptoms. Anxiety, insomnia, and depression may last for months after you’ve quit. Unfortunately, these persistent withdrawal symptoms are frequently mistaken for a return of the original problem, causing some people to restart the medication. Self-help tips for conquering anxiety Medication and therapy aren't the only options for anxiety relief. There are many self-help strategies you can use to get the best of worry, stress, and fear. Natural ways to relieve stress and anxiety: I learned the hard way, over the years, from taking anti-depressant and anxiety drugs, and still worrying I would have an anxiety attack. I had one years ago and never want to have another. I’ve learned in more recent years that there are many natural ways to avoid anxiety, lessen their impact, and stay off medication. I learned a lot more about natural ways since discovering Dr. Sarno, Steve Ozanich, and TMS, thanks to them and Forest, Becca, Herbie, and many who have posted on TMSWiki.org/forum. Here are some of the best ways I’ve been using to relax and not be anxious, not necessarily in that order: Laugh. Laughing releases natural pain killers in our mind and body. Most new movies and television shows aren’t funny unless you like bathroom humor or are about six years old. You can get more benefit out of just laughing at nothing. Pretend you’re laughing at something funny and your unconscious mind will not know the difference. Drink hot green tea, or chamomile tea. Drink hot milk. Deep breathing. Inhale through youth mouth and push out your belly, filling it with air. Hold the breath for a few seconds, then breathe it out through your nose making a “whoosh” sound and saying, “Out goes all pain and stress.” Stop worrying. It does no good and creates pain. Follow what God said, that tomorrow’s troubles and worries are enough in themselves. Don’t worry about today’s. Live in the present moment. Don’t worry about tomorrow or next week or next year. What you worry about usually never happens. Meditation. Turn off the television, sit or lie down, close your eyes, and either listen to soothing music or just enjoy a quiet room. If you prefer your eyes open, you could look at a lighted candle or a vase of flowers. Let your mind calm down. If you have a headache, massage your temples, sides of your head, and top of your head while deep breathing. Say a calming mantra. One of my favorites is repeating “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better.” Repeat that 25 times upon rising in the morning, during the day at any time while doing exercise or meditating, and again 25 times in bed before going to sleep. If that doesn’t help you sleep, try counting backwards from 100 to 1. It might take a few laps, but usually only two. Take three laps or more if necessary. Don’t take your worries to bed with you. Also, don’t try to figure out what repressed emotion(s) causes your pain. Do that during the day and Dr. Sarno suggests not longer than a half hour. Try tapping your anxiety away. Tap two fingers on your forehead, then down to above your eyes, the sides of your eyes, below your eyes, your collar bone, and clutch a wrist while saying “Peace.” Don’t watch television news or news talk shows. They just fill your head with bad news to worry you and make you anxious. They’re only on the air to sell drugs you don’t need from pharmaceutical companies that make billions off of you while giving doctors millions to push them on their patients. Or they want you to buy a new car. I drive a 2001 Saturn that has been trouble-free since I bought it used in 2002. It’s so good and reliable, never needing repair, that it is no longer made or sold. I wouldn’t sell mine if you gave me a $25,000 new car (new cars need to be recalled for repairs that could otherwise kill you.) Do some inspirational reading. The best is to read some of The Bible every day. And pray. Pray thanking whatever God you believe in, and ask for peace, calm, joy, and good health for yourself, your loved ones, and those in need all around the world. Not all anti-anxiety pills are to be avoided. Some are natural, such as Kava Kava and Valerian. They are from plants and contain herbs or roots that naturally promote calm and relaxation and can be especially helpful in getting to sleep. Kava beverages, made from the dried roots of the shrub Piper methysticum, have been used socially and ceremonially in the South Pacific for hundreds of years and in Europe since the 1700s. Human studies have found at least moderate benefit of kava in treating anxiety, and it may be as effective as benzodiazepine drugs such as diazepam (Valium) or the prescription drug buspirone(Buspar) used for generalized anxiety disorder. A caution is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that there is the potential for liver toxicity from kava, but it does not say what dosage or how long one takes kava can affect the liver. I’ve taken a kava kava gel cap occasionally for anxiety and it relaxed me for hours. I took one in the morning with breakfast and still felt calm and relaxed at bedtime that night. It didn’t make me sleepy and I safely drove a long distance under its calming effect. Valerian is an herb sold as a dietary supplement to relieve anxiety and for insomnia and other sleep disorders, used as early as the time of ancient Greece and Rome. In the 16th century it was used to treat nervousness, headaches, and heart palpitations. In England during World War II, it was used to relieve stress caused by air raids. Valerian should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women without advice of a doctor. Children under 3 years of age also should not take Valerian because studies have not yet been evaluated for those ages. Valerian may have adverse effects if taken with alcohol or sedative drugs. You don’t need anxiety medication. Get relief, be pain free, and appreciate and enjoy every day, every minute of life. Another, and one of the very best ways to relieve anxiety, is to get a dog or cat. They know how to relax and you can learn from them. Take your dog for a walk and see and smell the roses, or cuddle your cat if it will let you. Most won’t, so I prefer a dog. I can’t believe how great a gift God gave to me when he led me to my first dog. I’ve had three so far, one at a time, each of them a big black Labrador Retriever, the first two for 16 and a half years, and my dog now, Annie, is in her twelfth year and still active as a puppy. I have to go now. Annie is looking at me with eyes that tell me it’s time for dinner. Bless you, and don’t worry about anxiety. It’s only natural and there are many natural ways to relieve yourself of it.