Benzodiazepines for panic disorder
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Benzodiazepines are usually taken as a tablet, capsule or oral solution (liquid form), but some may also be injected or taken as a rectal suppository.
How It Works
Benzodiazepines are antianxiety medicines that are used to treat panic disorder.1 Alprazolam, specifically, is effective in reducing anxiety and nervous tension and can be helpful in easing agoraphobia. Benzodiazepines are sometimes prescribed for immediate relief of symptoms, but antidepressants are usually used for long-term treatment of panic disorder and may be prescribed along with a benzodiazepine to treat panic disorder.2
Benzodiazepines can be used on a daily basis or taken as needed, unlike antidepressants, which must be taken every day.
Why It Is Used
Benzodiazepines may be used to treat panic disorder if:
- Antidepressants are not effective or their side effects are not well-tolerated.
- Medicine is needed for immediate relief of severe symptoms of panic disorder, anxiety about having a panic attack, or agoraphobia.
How Well It Works
Benzodiazepines are effective in providing rapid relief of symptoms associated with panic disorder and agoraphobia.
Possible side effects of benzodiazepines include:
- Blurred vision.
- Slurred speech.
- Memory loss.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning on clonazepam (Klonopin) and the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts. The FDA does not recommend that people stop using this medicine. Instead, people who take clonazepam should be watched closely for warning signs of suicide. People who take clonazepam and who are worried about this side effect should talk to a doctor.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Benzodiazepines are associated with the risk of dependency (abuse) and the possibility of withdrawal symptoms.
It is possible for symptoms of panic disorder to return when the drug is stopped.
- American Psychiatric Association (1998). Practice guideline for the treatment of patients with panic disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 155(5 Suppl): 1–34.
- Nicholas LM, et al. (2004). Panic disorder. In JE Tintinalli et al., eds., Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide, 6th ed., pp. 1826–1830. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Last Updated: September 16, 2008