Are Anxiety Meds Addictive?

Anxiety meds are used for the treatment and alleviation of anxiety. Many anxiety medications present no danger of addiction, but some medications can become habit-forming and addictive, with long-term use creating a difficult withdrawal experience. Below, we’ll discuss the different types of anxiety medication and their relation to addiction.

Which Anxiety Medication is Addictive vs. Non-Addictive?

The most common addictive anxiety medications, Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium, are all benzodiazepines. The most common non-addictive anxiety medications are SSRIs like Prozac and Zoloft, SNRIs, and Beta-Blockers. We’ll discuss each medication in more detail below.

Non-Addictive Anxiety Medications

Most available anxiety medications are non-addictive, and include SSRIs, SNRIs, and Beta-Blockers. Doctors will typically start a patient on non-addictive anxiety medications before trying potentially addictive medications.

SSRIs

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, commonly known as SSRIs, are one of the most common non-addictive anxiety medications. They work by preventing the brain’s nerve cells from reabsorbing serotonin, a chemical that improves mood and the sending of nerve impulses and helps to decrease anxiety. With more serotonin present in your brain, your mood improves and your anxiety is lessened.

SNRIs

Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors, commonly known as SNRIs, are also a common choice when it comes to non-addictive anxiety medications. Like SSRIs, SNRIs work by preventing the brain’s nerve cells from reabsorbing two neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine. The increased presence of these two chemicals boosts mood and decreases anxiety.

Beta-Blockers

Beta-blockers, also known as beta-adrenergic blocking agents, are a type of drug commonly used to reduce blood pressure by blocking the effect of epinephrine in the body. Because they cause the heart to beat more slowly and improve blood flow, beta-blockers can decrease the physical symptoms of anxiety, which in turn can help to alleviate the mental symptoms. They are most commonly used for the short-term relief of anxiety, especially before taxing or stressful experiences or events.

Addictive Anxiety Medications

Addictive anti-anxiety medications, typically benzodiazepines, are for the most part safe to use and can effectively and quickly combat common anxiety symptoms like panic attacks. However, they’re meant for short-term use, and can become less effective the longer they’re used, increasing the user’s risk of addiction.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines, a class of drugs that includes Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan, are the most common form of potentially addictive anxiety medication. Benzodiazepines work by boosting the effect of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid, dampening the physical symptoms of anxiety while also creating a sense of relaxation. They generally produce their effects quickly, in a matter of minutes.

As a result, benzodiazepines are effective for those experiencing short-term anxiety, and are usually prescribed to address this issue. Otherwise, doctors prefer not to prescribe them, as they can quickly become less effective with repeated use, leading to a risk of addiction. If used appropriately, however, benzodiazepines remain a safe and effective treatment option for anxiety.

Side Effects of Anxiety Medication

Every anxiety medication will come with a particular list of possible side effects that you should discuss with your physician before beginning treatment. In general, however, the most common side effects of addictive anxiety medications are fatigue, sleepiness, and a dampening or slowing-down of mental functioning.

How to Treat Anxiety Medication Withdrawal

The symptoms of anxiety medication withdrawal are serious, and include increased anxiety, restlessness, muscle spasms, insomnia, headaches, nausea and vomiting, depression, short-term memory loss, and even auditory, tactile, or visual hallucinations. If you or a loved one is experiencing anxiety medication withdrawal, the best way to treat the symptoms and combat your addiction is by seeking professional help.

Although withdrawal symptoms may only last several days to a few weeks, recovery from benzodiazepine addiction can take much longer. At Beachway Therapy Center, we offer a continuum of care that helps patients transition from the detox phase of care into longer-term addiction recovery.

Many times patients that end up with a benzodiazepine dependency suffer from an underlying co-occurring disorder such as depression or anxiety. Beachway has extensive experience working with dual diagnosis patients to achieve their mental health goals. Our holistic program combines medical supervision with evidence-based clinical intervention to help patients identify the issues that led to their addiction in the first place.

Professional, attentive, and individualized treatment is ultimately the best way to treat anxiety medication withdrawal, and set you or your loved one back on the path to a normal life. If it’s required, we also offer aftercare support, which can periodically reinforce the lessons learned with support groups or other forms of post-treatment therapy.