Can You Become Addicted to Anxiety Medication?

Anxiety is an emotion everyone experiences from time to time. It is the brain’s way of reacting to a stressful situation or event. It is also how the brain lets you know there may be a potential danger you should be aware of. Anxiety is most common when faced with an important decision or a significant problem. Although occasional anxiety is OK and even healthy, chronic or consistent anxiety may signify an anxiety disorder. 


What Is Anxiety? 

Anxiety or anxiety disorders are separate from everyday stress and anxiety. Anxiety is a mental illness characterized by constant and overwhelming feelings of anxiety and fear. This excessive anxiety can cause those who struggle with it to avoid situations that cause these emotions. This can mean avoiding going to work, school, family events, and other social situations that may trigger (or worsen) anxiety symptoms. To be considered anxiety, these feelings must last for six months or more. 


Commonly Prescribed Anxiety Medications

Treatment for anxiety often includes a combination of medications and psychotherapy. Although drugs will not cure anxiety, they can help to manage symptoms and improve everyday functioning. There are many medications available. 



Benzodiazepines are sedative drugs that help to relax the body and mind. They help treat various anxiety disorders, including panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorders, and social anxiety disorders. The most commonly prescribed drugs from this class include Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin. Benzodiazepines are often used for short-term treatment only as long-term use increases one’s risk for dependency and addiction



Antidepressants work by affecting how the neurotransmitters in the brain function. Although helpful for treating anxiety, results can take longer than other medications. There are different types of antidepressants. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) work by increasing the levels of serotonin. This helps improve mood. Commonly prescribed SSRIs include Prozac. Zoloft, Lexapro, and Paxil. 


Less commonly prescribed antidepressants include MAOIs and Tricyclic antidepressants. MAOIs or monoamine oxidase inhibitors are used to treat panic disorders and social phobias. They help to increase the number of neurotransmitters that regulate mood. It is important to note that MAOIs are FDA-approved to treat depression but are used off-label for anxiety. Tricyclic antidepressants such as Anafranil and Tofranil work like SSRIs for treating a variety of anxiety disorders. 


Can You Become Addicted to Anxiety Medication? 

In short-yes. Benzodiazepines, although beneficial in treating anxiety, have a high risk for dependency and addiction. Benzodiazepines or benzos can change the structure and function of the brain. Over time, the level of drug builds up in the body leading to intense physical and psychological dependency. Even when taken as prescribed and under the care and supervision of a medical or mental health provider, an addiction to anxiety medication can develop. 


Because a medical provider prescribes benzodiazepines, many people do not realize the potential dangers associated with their use. It is essential to recognize the signs and symptoms of benzodiazepine addiction so you or your loved one can get early and effective addiction treatment. When you are addicted to benzodiazepines, it is essential to detox and withdraw in a supervised setting. Benzo withdrawal can be particularly dangerous as you are at an increased risk for dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including respiratory failure, cardiac issues, coma, seizures, and death. 


If you or a loved one struggles with an addiction to anxiety medication, especially benzodiazepine medications, it is essential to seek help from a specialized treatment center like Rise in Malibu. Our caring and compassionate treatment team are here to provide support and guidance as you start your journey to recovery. To learn more about our luxury Malibu rehab, contact our admissions team today. 


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