Benzodiazepine use in the elderly is associated with an increased risk of falls, broken hips and legs, and car accidents. Long-term benzodiazepine use also increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Because they’re physically addicting and on their own and dangerous when combined with alcohol and other drugs, anyone with a current or former substance abuse problem should use benzodiazepines only with extreme caution.
Many medications originally approved for the treatment of depression are also prescribed for anxiety. In comparison to benzodiazepines, the risk for dependency and abuse is smaller. However, antidepressants take up to 4 to 6 weeks to begin relieving anxiety symptoms, so they can’t be taken “as needed.” Their use is limited to chronic anxiety problems that require ongoing treatment.
SSRIs have been used to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Common side effects of SSRIs include:Fatigue, Nausea, Agitation, Drowsiness, Weight gain, Diarrhea, Insomnia, Sexual dysfunction, Nervousness, Headaches, Dry mouth, Increased sweating. Although physical dependence is not as quick to develop with antidepressants, withdrawal can still be an issue. If discontinued too quickly, antidepressant withdrawal can trigger symptoms such as extreme depression and fatigue, irritability, anxiety, flu-like symptoms, and insomnia.
While this is particularly true of children and young adults, anyone taking antidepressants should be closely watched. Monitoring is especially important if this is the person’s first time on depression medication or if the dose has recently been changed. Signs that medication is making things worse include anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, hostility, restlessness, and extreme agitation—particularly if the symptoms appear suddenly or rapidly deteriorate.
If you are concerned that a friend or family member is contemplating suicide, see Suicide Prevention. The suicide risk is greatest during the first two months of antidepressant treatment. Drugs such as Buspirone and beta blockers may also be used in the treatment of anxiety. Buspirone, also known by the brand name BuSpar, is a newer anti-anxiety drug that acts as a mild tranquilizer.
Compared to benzodiazepines, buspirone is slow acting—taking about two weeks to start working. However, it’s not as sedating, it doesn’t impair memory and coordination, and the withdrawal effects are minimal. Since the risk of dependence is low and it has no serious drug interactions, buspirone is a better option for older individuals and people with a history of substance abuse.
Transformations Treatment Center
14000 S Military Trail, Delray Beach, FL 33484
FV9H+MC Delray Beach, Florida