Benzodiazepines are among the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S. Examples of benzodiazepines include: Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, and Valium. While benzodiazepines are effective in the treatment of anxiety and are approved to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder, there are several drawbacks to this class of medications.
Someone who takes one of these medications regularly can experience tolerance (same dose is no longer effective over time), withdrawal (physical symptoms that can be medically dangerous when the medication is abruptly discontinued), and rebound anxiety (a higher anxiety level once the medication leaves their system). These properties contribute to the possibility of these medications being overused or abused.
The most recent studies show that, in addition to causing short term side effects such as drowsiness, motor incoordination, and confusion, use of benzodiazepines regularly can worsen cognitive decline in the elderly and increase the risk of Alzheimer's Disease.
The risks of Alzheimer's Dementia has been shown in studies to be increased if one has taken a benzodiazepine regularly for three or more months. For these reasons, SSRI/SNRI medications, such as Prozac, are preferred for the long term treatment of anxiety.
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