While taking benzodiazepines for anxiety may be effective, there are potential disadvantages that should not be ignored.

Benzodiazepines, also called benzos, are prescribed for anxiety. They have become a common treatment method. The benefits of using benzos for anxiety are significant. They act fast and are effective for most people.

Taking benzos for anxiety may be effective, but potential risks should not be ignored. When determining whether this is a viable treatment option, someone must examine the risks of dependence.

Do Benzos Help with Anxiety?

Benzos are effective for many people and provide quick relief of anxiety symptoms. They work by influencing chemical in the brain to slow the central nervous system. As a result, they produce a state of relaxation. Barbiturates were mostly used before benzos became popular.

Common Benzodiazepines for Anxiety

Nearly all of the common benzos used to treat anxiety produce similar effects.  However, the duration of these effects will differ based on the type of drug. The side effects of each will be a major difference.

Some of the most common benzos used to treat anxiety include:

Anxiety and Xanax

Taking Xanax for anxiety is common. Xanax may provide quick results due to the way it affects the body. Xanax may be used for a variety of anxiety disorders including:

The dosage may vary based on the type of anxiety disorder being treated. Xanax typically produces relaxing effects for as long as 11 to 20 hours. However, a major concern with the use of Xanax for anxiety is the possibility of developing a dependence.  This can happen even when used as prescribed. Xanax is recommended only for short term use but is often prescribed for longer periods.

Anxiety and Valium

Another common drug to help with anxiety is Valium. Its effects last longer than Xanax and may provide relief for as long as one to three days. The dosage used may be based on the type of anxiety being treated. In addition to treating anxiety, Valium has been used to treat insomnia. Valium has many of the same risks as Xanax.

Anxiety and Ativan

Ativan is used to treat anxiety and to calm patients before medical procedures. Ativan is also used to treat some sleep disorders. Using Ativan to treat anxiety is of some concern because of the risk of dependence. Major factors for whether someone will develop a dependence include the dosage and the duration of use. The longer someone uses Ativan and the higher the dosage, the more likely they are to develop an addiction.

Anxiety and Klonopin

Klonopin has been used for several of the same anxiety disorders as Xanax and Ativan.  It can also be prescribed to treat OCD. Using Klonopin to treat anxiety is effective but has risks.

Alternatives to Benzodiazepines for Anxiety

Benzos are typically used to treat anxiety, despite the serious risks. It is possible to find a safe alternative to benzos for anxiety. Non-benzos for anxiety may include antidepressants, supplements and antihistamines.

Antidepressants can have benefits for people with anxiety. These drugs, including Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa and Lexapro, are most often used. They need to be taken daily for many weeks before the full effects are felt. So, many people with anxiety can become frustrated and stop this treatment due to the delay. However, if used regularly, the effects of these drugs may last longer with fewer risks than benzos.

Supplements require more research but were shown to reduce anxiety. There are benefits of using omega-3 fatty acids for reducing anxiety. L-theanine, found in green tea, has also been shown to provide anxiety relief. L-theanine has fairly quick results.

If someone is thinking about taking supplements to treat anxiety they should discuss it with a doctor first. The FDA does not regulate them, so proceed with caution.

Antihistamines have been approved for the treatment of anxiety. They also do not carry the risk of dependence. These drugs can provide relief quickly and are often used with antidepressant treatment.

Can Benzos Cause Anxiety?

One of the most concerning aspects of using benzos to treat anxiety may be the risk of accidentally increasing anxiety. Misuse and over-prescribing of benzos may be the culprit for a person’s anxiety. Someone who takes benzos frequently may lower their tolerance for distress and anxiety. When benzos are not taken, small things may cause severe anxiety. Chronic use of benzos also increases sensitivity to anxiety.

Treating Benzo Addiction and Anxiety

Benzodiazepine withdrawal should occur in a medical facility like a hospital or treatment center. This is due to severe health risks they present. Benzos are one of two substances that have the risk of death from withdrawal. Alcohol is the other. Someone detoxing from benzos will usually be monitored while the drug is naturally cleared by the body. In some cases, medical support is needed.

Someone going through Benzo withdrawal will have difficulty sleeping, increased anxiety, panic attacks, and other symptoms. This may cause a person to feel they need to continue taking the drug. Learning to manage anxiety may be one of the largest predictors of recovery in treating addiction to benzos.

Key Points: Benzos and Anxiety

Some key points to remember:

  • Benzos can help people treat anxiety
  • The drugs can be very harmful if people are not careful
  • Only take benzos with a doctor’s permission
  • Sometimes benzos can make anxiety worse

While taking benzos may help treat anxiety, they can be harmful. Contact The Recovery Village today to learn how treatment can help you.

Jennifer Kopf
Editor – Jennifer Kopf
Jennifer Kopf is a Florida-based writer who likes to balance creative writing with helpful and informative pieces. Her passion for helping people has translated into writing about the importance of treatment for substance use and mental health disorders. Read more
Denise-Marie Griswold
Medically Reviewed By – Denise-Marie Griswold, LCAS
Denise-Marie Griswold is a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist. She earned her Master's Degree in Substance Abuse and Clinical Counseling from East Carolina University in 2014. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.