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Are Anxiety Meds Addictive?

When someone develops anxiety and seeks professional treatment, they typically use approaches like going to therapy. In addition, many people find that anxiety medications help minimize their symptoms and feel better. Most people have seen articles documenting how addictive drugs can be, including illegal drugs like heroin and crack. However, prescription drugs can also end up causing a substance use disorder. This leaves some people wondering, “Are anxiety meds addictive?” Buckhead Behavioral Health has years of experience with anxiety treatment in Atlanta and understands the risks of someone abusing their medications.

What is Anxiety Like?

People experience anxiety differently, particularly if they do not have the exact same type of anxiety disorder. Still, many of the symptoms of anxiety are universal. They impact a person’s ability to have healthy relationships with their partners, family, and friends. Anxiety can show up in a reduced ability to perform well on the job or at school. Other common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feeling anxious to some degree constantly
  • Having moments of extreme anxiety that ebb and flow
  • Panic attacks
  • Isolating from people
  • Turning down social invitations because of a fear of feeling anxiety when attending them
  • Insomnia
  • Physical problems without a known cause, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and muscular aches
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions, or focusing 
  • Using drugs or alcohol to reduce or cover up feelings of anxiety

Even when someone understands that their level of anxiety warrants getting professional help, they may fear what happens if they begin using prescription medications. The question “Are anxiety meds addictive?” is a valid question, and we can help each person explore the risks and how to avoid them or overcome them, should the problem develop.

How Do Prescription Medications Help Treat Anxiety?

When someone begins treatment for anxiety, a discussion about taking medications will take place between a doctor or therapist and the individual they are treating. When a person begins taking medication, several things factor into what they take. This includes the symptoms they experience, how long they’ve had them, and any previous experience taking meds. 

For many people, the best choice are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are a class of drugs commonly used to treat anxiety disorders and depression. Common brand names of SSRI drugs include Prozac, Celexa, Paxil, Lexapro, and Zoloft. SSRIs increase the amount of serotonin produced in the brain, which decreases a person’s anxiety and helps them feel more at ease.

Others find success in using serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which are commonly used to treat anxiety disorders and long-term pain.  Common SNRI brand names include Cymbalta, Effexor XR, Pristiq, and Fetzima. SNRIs change a person’s brain chemistry by correcting faulty messaging that neurotransmitters use to communicate between brain cells.

Some people take buspirone, which is classified as an anxiolytics drug. When none of these drugs works effectively or provides optimal results, a person may take a benzodiazepine medication. The goal of each medication is to minimize or eliminate symptoms of anxiety. Any concerns about if anxiety meds are addictive can be discussed with the person prescribing them.

Are Anxiety Meds Addictive?

There isn’t a simple “yes” or “no” answer to the question, “Are anxiety meds addictive?” SSRI, SNRI, and anxiolytics drugs are generally not addictive. By that, we mean people do not develop physical addictions to them, but they may develop a reliance on them emotionally. This means they have a belief that they cannot function without them and may need assistance in going off them to relieve their psychological reliance.

Benzodiazepines are a different type of drug and do carry a risk of someone becoming physically and psychologically addicted to them. The most commonly abused benzo drugs include:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Temazepam (Restoril)

When someone develops an addiction to a benzo drug they take for anxiety, they will need to seek professional help to overcome it.

Is There Treatment for Addiction to Anxiety Medication?

Addiction to anxiety medications can be treated via residential rehab or outpatient treatment programs. Someone with a severe addiction often begins getting help by moving into a residential program for several weeks, and then transitioning into outpatient care. Alternatively, many people begin their treatment at an outpatient facility. This requires them to travel to a program for their sessions but they can still live at home or in a sober living facility. 

For those who qualify, an outpatient detox program begins their journey through treatment. From there, the levels of treatment include regular outpatient programs (OP), intensive outpatient programs (IOP), and partial hospitalization programs (PHP). Programs like Buckhead Behavioral Health offer evening IOP and virtual IOP for substance abuse. We also offer access to prescription medications that ease the symptoms of withdrawal.

Find Treatment for Addiction in Atlanta Today

Do you live with anxiety and don’t know how to find your way out of it? People can end up living for years or even decades feeling controlled by their anxiety because they feel afraid real help isn’t available for them. Buckhead Behavioral Health understands it can be scary to reach out for help, which is why we make it easy for you. We employ helpful, friendly therapists and other staff members who provide compassionate care for everyone we treat with mental health treatment and dual diagnosis treatment in Atlanta. We match you with the right kinds of therapy for your particular needs, as well as access to FDA-approved medications to help ease your symptoms.

Do you want to talk to us about your options for getting help for anxiety? Visit our admissions page now and start getting all the information you need.

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