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    Benzodiazepines for Panic Disorder

    Benzodiazepines for Panic Disorder

    Examples

    Generic Name Brand Name
    alprazolam Xanax
    clonazepam Klonopin
    diazepam Valium
    lorazepam Ativan

    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 . 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.

    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.

    Side Effects

    All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

    Here are some important things to think about:

    • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
    • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
    • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

    Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

    • Trouble breathing.
    • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

    Call your doctor right away if you have:

    • Hives.
    • Confusion.
    • Slurred speech.
    • Thoughts of suicide.

    Common side effects of this medicine include:

    • Drowsiness.
    • Dizziness.
    • Memory loss.
    • Tolerance (your body keeps needing more of the medicine to get the same effect).

    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

    Taking medicine

    Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

    There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

    Advice for women

    Taking medicines for panic disorder during pregnancy may increase the risk of birth defects. If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or trying to get pregnant, talk to your doctor. Medicines may need to be continued if your panic disorder is severe. Your doctor can help weigh the risks of treatment against the risk of harm to your pregnancy.

    Checkups

    Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

    Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

    Credits

    By Healthwise Staff
    Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
    Specialist Medical Reviewer Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
    Last Revised September 7, 2012

    Last Revised: September 7, 2012

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