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Anxiety Meds & Mental Health

There has long been concerns over the use of anti-anxiety medications (as well as many other mental health medications) and the severity of their side effects - namely, do the side effects end up making things worse for the person taking them? In this case, benzodiazepines were studies - via self report, which has limitations, to see whether this was the case.

Do the pros outweigh the cons? In this case, the answer is likely no, and in fact, the cons outweigh the pros.

Benzodiazepines have side effects such as:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Syncope
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremor

They are also habit forming, and some versions (such as the commonly named Rohypnol) prevent new memory formation. Generally, these medications work on the nervous system, by making it less active, which is why they treat issues like anxiety. However, many users have issues with the list of side effects, which oftentimes outweigh the original anxiety issue.

This particular study look at why people had been prescribed these drugs: Survey respondents said the initial reasons they were prescribed benzodiazepines were: situational anxiety (44%), insomnia (40%), panic attacks (40%), depression (33%), and generalized anxiety disorder (24%). They then went on to detail the new issues that had arisen from taking the drugs: low energy, difficulty focusing, memory loss, anxiety and nervousness, sleep problems, light and sound sensitivity, digestive problems, muscle weakness, or body aches. Of the people reporting those symptoms, at least half of them said the problems lasted more than one year.

This might be why, of the 1207 people surveyed, 90% said that the new outcomes and neurological issues were worse than the primary issue that they had sought treatment for. Additionally, studies have found behavior modification (changes in diet, exercise, and supplements) as well as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, are all effective strategies at treating anxiety, and do not have the same problematic and longterm side effects.

Link: https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/news/20230630/anxiety-medicines-may-cause-neurological-problems