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FDA-Approved and Off-Label Medications for Anxiety

It is natural to experience anxiety at times. However, persistent and intense anxiety may be a symptom of a severe psychiatric disorder. Anxiety is characterized by fear, unease, worry, and restlessness. Approximately 33.7% of the global population will experience an anxiety disorder at some point. General anxiety disorders affect about 3.1% of the American population. The good news is that anxiety treatment is available now in many forms, and it is possible to treat and manage anxiety disorders for a patient to live a productive life.

It’s advisable to consult a medical professional for personalized anxiety disorder treatment that will suit a person’s specific needs. Depending on a patient’s disorder, the doctor may prescribe anxiety medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of both treatments for better results. In this post, let’s review FDA-approved medications prescribed for these types of mental disorders.

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What is FDA Approval?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a regulatory body that ensures the safety, efficacy, and security of human medication, veterinary drugs, and medical, biological, and cosmetic products. An FDA-approved medication implies the medication is reviewed and determined by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) to have more benefits than any potential risks or side effects on the user.

Types of FDA-approved Medications for Anxiety

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), there are four major categories of medication to treat anxiety disorders. These categories are:

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are usually prescribed to treat depression. However, doctors also prescribe these meds for anxiety disorders.
SSRIs are a first-line anxiety disorder treatment. The medication mechanisms stop the reabsorption of serotonin back into the cells to regulate a patient’s mood. SSRIs take effect within two to six weeks of use, though not for everyone. A patient may use the treatment for twelve months and gradually reduce the dosage (it is essential to always consult the doctor before such a change). SSRIs are not potentially addictive.

Types of SSRIs medications include:

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are sedative medications that alleviate anxiety disorders’ physical symptoms, such as excessive sweating and tense muscles. The drug relaxes the body and takes effect fast. A patient benefits from the treatment about one or two hours after intake. Since benzodiazepines work quickly, they can be used with SSRIs for about two to four weeks when SSRIs start to take effect. Benzodiazepines are usually prescribed for short-term use since they can be addictive and ineffective after a long time of use.

The list of medicines for anxiety under this category includes:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)

A doctor will conduct a detailed assessment of your symptoms before prescribing medications.

Serotonin-norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

Like SSRIs, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors treat depression and anxiety disorders. The drug is also usually prescribed for chronic pain treatment.

SNRIs’ work mechanisms prevent the reabsorption of norepinephrine and serotonin chemicals back into the cells. The medication takes several weeks to benefit the patient.

Types of SNRIs prescribed for anxiety include Duloxetine (Cymbalta) and Venlafaxine (Effexor XR).

Buspirone

Buspirone (BuSpar) antianxiety medication is used for short-term treatment to alleviate anxiety symptoms. BuSpar works slower than benzodiazepines and is not effective for all types of anxiety disorders. However, it has fewer side effects and minimal risk of addiction.

Off-Label Anxiety Medications

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) are an old depression medication. Though TCAs are an effective depression and anxiety disorder treatment, clinicians prefer to prescribe SSRIs since they have fewer side effects. However, some people might find relief from TCAs if other medications are ineffective.

The medications block the reabsorption of norepinephrine and serotonin back into the cells. The process increases the level of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Types of TCAs include:

  • Amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • Imipramine (Tofranil)
  • Nortriptyline (Pamelor)

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Beta-blockers

Beta-blockers are usually prescribed for patients with heart conditions such as high blood pressure. Examples of beta blockers include Atenolol (Tenormin) and Propranolol (Inderal).

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors are one of the oldest depression treatment medications. MAOIs may be prescribed off-label to alleviate social phobia and panic disorder symptoms.

MAOIs types include:

  • Emsam (Selegiline)
  • Marplan (Isocarboxazid)
  • Nardil (Phenelzine)
  • Parnate (Tranylcypromine)

Conclusion

A person with disturbing symptoms should consult a doctor for a professional assessment and treatment for anxiety. The doctor may recommend certain medications or other interventions depending on the patient’s condition.

Though anxiety disorders are common psychiatric conditions, it is possible to treat and manage the diseases effectively. Doctors usually prescribe FDA-approved medications depending on the unique nature of a patient’s condition. Patients should always consult a clinician in case of severe side effects or dosage review.

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