The term anxiolytic refers to medication that is prescribed to treat anxiety and anxiety disorders. There are a number of drug families in this group which include benzodiazepines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, barbituates and herbal treatments. Anxiolytics have been found to provide some benefit to individuals who suffer from alcohol issues and have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety can be defined as a mood condition that is related to situations or events that a person feels unable to cope with. It is the body’s normal reaction to stress. It is characterized by physical and psychological manifestations which can be mild or extreme. Most people suffer from anxiety at some point in their life which is characterized by stress, fear or worry; but it becomes an abnormal reaction when these feelings are intense, irrational and excessive.
The physical manifestations of anxiety can include tension, fatigue, nausea, chest pain, heart palpitations and headaches. People often report an increase in sweat, trembling and an impending sense of fear of dread. Emotionally, a person may feel intense feelings of apprehension, irritability, and irrational fear; and it is often stated that a feeling of a blank mind, or nothingness is felt. Many people also state they believe they are going to die or suffer from a heart attack.
Individuals who have an anxiety disorder should have treatment with drugs that are suitable for the condition. Treating the condition while giving treatment for the alcohol problems will improve the outcomes of other therapies and the quality of life.
Many people use alcohol as a tool to calm their feelings and reactions under times of stress or anxiety. It has been shown that alcohol has an anxiolytic effect and is used by many as a type of medication for anxiety. People who feel anxiety in certain situations or in social settings often use alcohol to feel more in control of their fears or emotions. They will often binge drink to feel like they fit in. Self-medicating anxiety with alcohol simply reinforces negative drinking behaviors and increases dependence.
Some individuals also suffer from alcohol-induced anxiety disorder which is characterized by the same feelings as normal anxiety but is directly related to withdrawal from alcohol. A person may suffer alcohol induced anxiety when they are not drinking, when they are drinking, or after they have consumed alcohol.
There are a number of key medications that are prescribed to individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders. These are benzodiazepines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and barbiturates.
Benzodiazepines for Alcohol Treatment
Benzodiazepines are a type of anxiolytic drug prescribed to treat anxiety disorders. They can help alleviate the crippling effects of severe anxiety and are the most commonly prescribed. Valium, Xanax and Librium are the most well known of the benezodiazepines. When taken, benzodiazepines make a person feel relaxed, calm and sometimes hypnotic. They can be prescribed during alcohol withdrawal or detox as they reduce the levels of agitation, insomnia and anxiety.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRI’s are a popular and commonly prescribed type of antidepressants. They are considered an effective anxiolytic when they are prescribed in a high dose. Commonly prescribed medication in this group of antidepressants include Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro.
Barbiturates are a type of drug that are an effective anxiolytic. The most commonly prescribed barbiturates include Amytal, Nembutal and Luminal. Although they are very effective, it is not often that a doctor will prescribe them because they are highly addictive and an abused drug.
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