Prescription Anxiety Medications (cont.)
Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD
Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.
In this Article
- What are anxiety medications and how do they work?
- For what conditions are anxiety medications used?
- Which anxiety medication is used depends on the specific diagnosis
- Are there differences among anxiety medications?
- What are the warnings/precautions/side effects and adverse events of anti-anxiety medications?
- What are some drug interactions for anti-anxiety drugs?
- What are some examples of anxiety medications?
Are there differences among anxiety medications?
Anxiety medications in the same class work in a similar way and there are similarities between classes of anxiety medications. The SSRIs affect brain serotonin levels. They are first-line for treating most types of anxiety. Other antidepressants, including the tricyclics (TCAs) and the monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), that also act on brain serotonin and norepinephrine levels have more limited use because of their side effects and drug interactions.
The anxiolytic drugs, which specifically target these disorders, work in different ways and have specific treatment applications. Benzodiazepines act on the neurotransmitter gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). Buspirone (BuSpar) enhances the activity of serotonin. The antihistamine hydroxyzine (Atarax, Vistaril), has a sedative effect by blocking certain receptors in the brain.
Medications normally used to treat high blood pressure also have specific off-label uses for treating panic disorders. The beta-blockers propranolol (Inderal) and atenolol (Tenormin) have become a popular remedy for performance anxiety, also known as stage fright. They may also have some use in PTSD. The alpha-blocker prazosin (Minipress) eases nightmares from PTSD. Other alpha-blockers, such as clonidine (Catapres) and guanfacine (Tenex), may also be useful for treating PTSD.
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