People who experience generalized anxiety disorder may seek respite from their symptoms through the use of anti-anxiety drugs. Four different types of drugs are commonly prescribed to help ease anxiety: benzodiazepines, antidepressants, buspirone and beta blockers.
Each of these drugs has advantages and disadvantages that patients and their physician must weigh before deciding what course of action to take.
The potential for addiction is of great concern to many who are considering using anti-anxiety medications. This is a legitimate cause for apprehension, as some drugs associated with easing anxiety are, indeed, highly addictive. Doctors may be loathe to prescribe benzodiazepines for this very reason. With continued long term use, benzodiazepines have been shown to cause physical dependence, along with the typical drug seeking behaviors associated with addiction.
The longer the patient takes benzodiazepines, the less effect the drugs have. The American Academy of Family Physicians warns that due to the tendency of patients to develop a tolerance to these drugs, after four to six months of use, they lose their effectiveness.
The inability to perform sexually may itself cause anxiety for some patients, thus the tendency for anti-anxiety drugs to cause sexual dysfunction can outweigh their desirability as a treatment for anxiety.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are antidepressant drugs often prescribed in the treatment of anxiety. Examples of SSRIs include Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac. These drugs have been associated with sexual side effects such as low sex drive, impotence and difficulty in achieving orgasm.
Beta blockers are also sometimes used as anti-anxiety medication. In an article on the website Helpguide.org, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., warn that beta blockers can cause a decrease in sex drive.
Patients taking benzodiazepines can experience drowsiness, slurred speech and slow reflexes. These symptoms can occur to such an extent that benzodiazepine use increases the likelihood of traffic accidents, warn Smith and Segal.
Oversedation, to the point where the patient appears drunk and experiences a drug hangover the next day, is a possibility with benzodiazepines. Due to their slow rate of metabolism, these drugs have a tendency to accumulate in the body when used for prolonged periods.
Other anti-anxiety medications, such as beta blockers and buspirone, an anxiety relieving drug that is marketed under the name BuSpar, have also been linked to symptoms of drowsiness and fatigue.