When and how to take anti-anxiety medications

Benzodiazapenes or anti-anxiety medications are very effective in treating anxiety.  Xanax, Klonopin and Ativan are the most commonly prescribed medications for panic disorder and generalized anxiety.  However, all of these medications, while effective, are only to be used on an “as needed” basis.   They are best used for the relief of acute anxiety and not for chronic use. While anti-anxiety medications are not physically addictive, people can develop a psychological dependency on the medication and not make a choice to cultivate and learn other ways to cope with anxiety.  Approaches like a daily practice of relaxation techniques, yoga, mindfulness  and meditation, when practiced on a regular basis,  are excellent ways to deal with chronic anxiety.  In working with patients and teaching relaxation and meditation, I have seen that medications are often not needed at all anymore.. We are reminded once again with the recent death of Whitney Houston that, although the cause of her death is still unknown, it is known that she struggled with prescription drugs as well as other substances and that she may have combined anti-anxiety medications with alcohol – a truly dangerous and potentially fatal combination.  When used properly and with caution, these medications have a place in treating anxiety for short-term use.


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