Anxiety disorders like panic disorder, agoraphobia and social anxiety can be treated with traditional psychotherapy but medications are often used as well to enhance treatment. One type of anti-anxiety medication in common use is called benzodiazepine, often referred to as "benzos" for short. While effective, it is far from harmless.
Benzos are relatively mild tranquilizers, often prescribed as anti seizure medication. Many patients describe their effect as sedating, relaxing, and calming. They work by slowing down your central nervous system. They work for a number of medical conditions including insomnia, seizures, muscle spasms, and alcohol withdrawal. Dentists also sometimes use them to calm nervous patients. People who have abused amphetamines sometimes also abuse benzos as they have a may of mitigating the effect of the amphetamine. Common drugs in this category are are Xanax, Valium, Serax, Rohypnol, Halcion, Librium, Mogadone, and Ativan, but check with your doctor, as there are many others.
Consider the possible side effects when using benzos to treat anxiety. First, they can be extremely addictive. While some patients report no adverse symptoms such as withdrawal, others report total dependence in as little three days. It depends on the strength of the drug you are using and your body’s specific reaction to it. Other side effects include drowsiness, confusion, lack of balance, impaired judgment, dry mouth, incontinence, and forgetfulness. Some are stronger than others and all have drug-specific side effects to consider as well. Once you are dependent or addicted, withdrawal can be difficult and may include unpleasant symptoms like insomnia, additional panic attacks, hypertension, tremors, increased depression, sweating, loss of appetite, and dysphoria. Sudden withdrawal may cause immediate convulsions, catatonia, delusions, psychosis, and delirium tremens. The ultimate result could be death, though this is relatively rare. Having said that, these pills should always be taken with the supervision of a medical doctor.
Only diagnosed anxiety disorder patients with prescriptions and strict instructions from their doctors should take these medications. Uncontrolled, the use of these drugs (like with most prescriptions drugs) can be harmful to your health. Benzos may be able to help you regain control during a panic attack or in your day-to-day life. Many anxiety disorder patients have, in fact, found great success with this kind of medication. However, there are disadvantages as well. Make sure that you fully understand how to use them and how they will affect your body before beginning to take them.
Have you had an experience, either positive or negative, with benzos? Tell us about it in the comments below.