Depressants – Antianxiety Medications

Depressants are one of the most frequently prescribed addictive medications.

Anti-anxiety medications come under the heading of depressants and are also referred to as tranquilizers.

Depressants (anti-anxiety drugs), also known as tranquilizers, are medications that relieve anxiety by slowing down the central nervous system.  These depressants can affect the body in several different ways. The primary effect is feelings of relaxation and the reduction of tension. Users may also feel a bit drowsy. This is because the drug is reducing the function of the central nervous system, including the brain.

Benzodiazepines are the most common class of anti-anxiety drugs and are so frequently prescribed that about 15% of the U.S. population receives a benzodiazepine prescription each year.

Below is a list of commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications.  All of these anti-anxiety medications except buspirone are benzodiazepines.

The first name is the trade or brand name.  The word in parentheses is the generic or chemical name.

Xanax (alprazolam)
Valium (diazepam)
Klonopin (clonazepam)
Ativan (lorazepam)
Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
Libritabs (chlordiazepoxide)
Librax  (chlordiazepoxide)
Paxipan  (halazepam)
Seraz (oxazepam)
Centrax  (prazepam)

Anti-anxiety drugs like benzodiazepines work by reducing brain activity. While this temporarily relieves anxiety, it can also lead to unwanted side effects.


Tolerance – Dependence – Addiction

Use over time will cause users to build up a tolerance to the substance. This means that they’ll require more and more of the drug to get the same feelings as they originally did. This is dangerous and can result in an accidental overdose.

Once you develop a tolerance to an anti-anxiety drug, addiction is not far after. They are very addictive and users tend to need higher doses over time to achieve desired effects.

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.”

 

Withdrawal

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

Unfortunately, withdrawal symptoms are frequently mistaken for a return of the original problem, causing some people to restart the medication.


Warnings

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.


Common Side Effects from anti-anxiety drugs area:

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

Even though these drugs are taken for their sedating effects some people who take depressants such as anti-anxiety medications experience the opposite effect.  Despite their sedating properties, anti-anxiety medications have the opposite effect on some people.  Instead of feeling calmer these people experience increased anxiety, irritability and agitation.  They may also feel hostility, rage, mania, aggressiveness or impulsiveness and hallucinations.

Under no circumstances attempt to withdraw from these drugs without proper ongoing medical supervision.