Antianxiety drugs are medicines that calm and relax people with excessive anxiety, nervousness, or tension. Everyone feels nervous or anxious once in awhile. Usually, the feeling is related to something happening in the person's life, such as a job interview, and it goes away when life is back to normal again. This type of anxiety does not need medical treatment. But some people feel anxious almost all the time, or they respond to slightly stressful events with feelings that are out of proportion. Constant anxiety, irrational worries, and sense of impending doom can seriously interfere with their daily lives.For people with such intense or prolonged anxiety, antianxiety drugs can help bring their feelings under control and reduce bothersome symptoms such as pounding heartbeat, breathing problems, irritability, nausea, and faintness.
Antianxiety drugs are prescribed for severe general anxiety and for specificanxiety disorders, such as phobias, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder. Physicians may sometimes prescribe these drugs for other conditions, such as sleep disorders, epilepsy, and other seizure disorders.
There are two main types of antianxiety drugs, also known as anxiolytics or minor tranquilizers. The family of antianxiety drugs known as benzodiazepinesincludes alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan). The other widely used antianxiety drug is buspirone (BuSpar), which is not a benzodiazepine.
Benzodiazepines take effect fairly quickly, starting to work within an hour after they are taken. The effects of buspirone are not felt until the drug hasbuilt up to certain levels in the body. People must take it every day for 2-3 weeks before they will notice any effects. These medicines are available only with a physician's prescription and are sold in tablet, capsule, liquid, rectal, and injectable forms.
Seeing the physician regularly while taking antianxiety drugs is important. The physician will check to make sure the medicine is working as it should andwill note unwanted side effects. Some people feel drowsy, dizzy, lightheaded, or less alert. Anyone who takes these drugs should not drive, use machinesor do anything else that might be dangerous until they have found out how thedrugs affect them.
Antianxiety drugs may add to the effects of alcohol and other drugs that slowdown the central nervous system (CNS), such as antihistamines, cold medicine, allergy medicine, sleep aids, medicine for seizures, tranquilizers, some pain relievers, and muscle relaxants.
People with certain medical conditions can have problems if they take antianxiety drugs. A physician should also be warned of any medical conditions suchas current or past drug abuse and kidney or liver disease. Anyone who has hadunusual reactions to these medications in the past should let his or her physician know. The physician should also be told about any allergies to foods,dyes, preservatives, or other substances.
Common side effects of antianxiety drugs are nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, headache, restlessness, nervousness, or unusual excitement. These problems usually go away as the body adjusts to the drug and do not require medicaltreatment unless they persist or they interfere with normal activities.
More serious side effects are rare, but may occur. Anyone who has unusual symptoms during or after treatment with antianxiety drugs should get in touch with his or her physician.