Every year, there are almost 100 million people who are prescribed drugs from the benzodiazepine family to treat anxiety and insomnia. But how do these drugs work? And how does Xanax differ from the other commonly prescribed benzodiazepines? The following is a short guide to the various anti anxiety drugs, how they are taken, and how they work to treat anxiety disorders.
What are benzodiazepines?
These are a class of drugs that are used to treat anxiety disorders. Because they have so many useful properties, benzodiazepines are also used as sedatives, to treat convulsions, and for use as muscle relaxers. Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed psychiatric drugs today. This is why it's especially important for patients to understand their properties, side effects, and recommendations for proper usage. The most well known drug of the group is Xanax. Additional benzodiazepines are Ativan, Klonopin, and Valium.
How do benzodiazepines work?
The drugs affect a part of the brain known as the gabor receptor. The gaba receptor is also one of the most important inhibitory neurotransmitters of the brain. The drugs work by binding themselves to the receptor. Other drugs that bind to this receptor are barbiturates and alcohol.
How are the drugs prescribed?
Xanax and other benzodiazepines can be taken on a continuous schedule, or simply when the patient feels the need. They can be used to treat many forms of anxiety, including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, insomnia, and panic disorder.
How do the drugs in the benzodiazepine family differ from one another?
The biggest way in which these drugs differ from one another is in how long they take to start working and in the how long they continue to work. These differences are important to be aware of when deciding which drug would best treat your particular symptoms. For example, Xanax takes effect quite quickly and has a duration that is relatively brief. On the other hand, Klonopin takes effect a little less rapidly, but has a duration that is much longer than Xanax.
How long does it take for these drugs to start helping with anxiety?
Benzodiazepines were designed to begin working quickly to provide relief from anxiety. This means that effects can be felt after just one or two doses of a medication. This characteristic makes benzodiazepines ideal for treating symptoms as they arise or as a precaution before a particularly stressful event (such as a airplane flight, operation, hospital stay, etc.).
What are the short and long term side effects associated with taking these medications?
Short term side effects are mild for most people. The one to be most aware of is the drowsiness and sedation that these drugs cause. This means that driving or operating heavy machinery should be avoided when you first start taking a benzodiazepine.
After getting more accustomed to your particular dosage, these activities can then be resumed. The long term risks of taking a benzodiazepine include developing a physical dependence on the drug. Using these medications also carry the risk of abuse. It's important to follow the dosage instructions your doctor gave you and to continue taking the medication as prescribed.
Because your body will start depending on the drug, making the decision to stop on your own can be dangerous. Always do so under the guidance of a doctor so that withdrawal symptoms are minimal. Be sure that benzodiazepines are only used for the purpose they were prescribed for and avoid alcohol when taking them.