Anxiety Medication Overview of Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are a generally well-tolerated class of psychoactive drugs commonly used to treat anxiety disorders. While they are considered to be a safe and effective way to reduce anxiety symptoms when used in the short-term, longer usage of benzodiazepines is associated with tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal.

Benzodiazepines act quickly, bringing significant relief from anxiety symptoms for most people. Regular use of benzodiazepines is usually limited to 2-4 weeks because of the risks associated with long-term usage. The drugs can also be used as needed to treat occasional episodes of intense anxiety.

Because benzodiazepines bring nearly immediate relief but are not a good choice for long-term anxiety treatment, they are often prescribed as an interim therapy during the time it takes for treatments like SSRIs and cognitive therapy to reach full effectiveness. Examples of benzodiazepines include Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Librium (chlordiazepoxide).

Benzodiazepines have few side effects, most commonly causing drowsiness and loss of coordination. Some people may also find that they cause mental slowing or confusion. Benzodiazepines have low toxicity, and while an overdose can be dangerous, it is rarely fatal when not combined with other drugs like alcohol.

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