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Are Anxiety Medications Addictive?

Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health issues that Americans struggle with. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults had any anxiety disorder in the past year.[1] 

While therapy and counseling can be extremely effective in helping you learn how to manage the symptoms of an anxiety disorder, sometimes medications are necessary. Therapy takes time, and you may benefit immensely from anxiety medications that can soothe your symptoms.

Some individuals suffer from severe anxiety disorders that require ongoing treatment with medications to address chemical imbalances in their brains. Either way, it is important to be aware of the risks of certain anxiety medications. Certain anxiety medications can be addictive, so following your doctor’s directions and taking only the medication as prescribed is important. Anxiety and addiction are closely related, and abusing your anxiety medications can increase the risk of addiction.

Types of Anxiety Medications

There are many options when it comes to anxiety medications, ensuring that there is something out there that will work for everyone.

The most common types of anxiety medications include:

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Typically, the first line of treatment for anxiety conditions like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications are considered antidepressants, however, the way that they increase serotonin in the brain can be beneficial in the treatment of anxiety.[2]

Examples of SSRI medications used to treat anxiety include:

  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)

Beta Blockers

While beta-blockers are typically used to treat heart conditions, they are commonly used to treat the symptoms of anxiety conditions like social anxiety. The most effective beta-blocker for anxiety treatment is known as propranolol (Inderal).[3] Propranolol is extremely helpful for situational anxiety, such as attending large gatherings or giving speeches at an award ceremony.


Buspirone belongs to a class of drugs known as anxiolytics. This medication is primarily intended for the treatment of various anxiety conditions.[4] Buspirone can reduce anxiety symptoms such as tension, dizziness, fear, and heart palpitations by increasing the amount of serotonin in your brain. 


Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants that are commonly used to treat anxiety and seizure disorders. These medications work by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your brain which helps regulate the central nervous system and helps you feel calm.[5] Benzodiazepines can treat a wide range of anxiety disorders but are only intended for short-term use.

Examples of benzodiazepine medications used to treat anxiety include:

What Anxiety Medications are Addictive and Why?

Thankfully, a large majority of the anxiety medications available are not habit-forming, which means you will not get addicted to them. However, benzodiazepine medications are extremely addictive and only intended for short-term use. 

Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants. They slow down activity in your brain while increasing certain neurotransmitters responsible for pleasure and reward. Over time, your brain will begin to associate the presence of benzodiazepines with pleasure, causing you to crave the substance and eventually become addicted to it.[6] 

Benzodiazepines are typically only prescribed for severe cases of anxiety on a short-term basis. Most of the time, these medications are not used unless other drugs have been ineffective for your symptoms. Even then, it is common for doctors to only give you enough benzodiazepines at a time to take them situationally for panic attacks.

Signs of an Addiction to Anxiety Medications

If you are taking benzodiazepines for an anxiety condition, you should only take them as directed. Benzodiazepine abuse will lead to physical dependence and addiction. If you are worried that you or a loved one have become addicted to your anxiety medication, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. 

The signs of benzodiazepine addiction include:[7]

  • Visiting multiple doctors to receive more than one prescription of benzodiazepines 
  • Taking your medication in larger doses or more often than intended
  • Forging prescriptions 
  • Lying about anxiety symptoms to doctors to receive higher dosages or more pills 
  • Becoming unable to complete daily responsibilities because of benzodiazepine abuse 
  • Needing to take more benzodiazepines to experience the desired effect (building a tolerance)
  • Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when you do not take benzodiazepines (physical dependency)
  • Struggling with cravings or urges to abuse benzodiazepines 
  • Slowed thinking and reaction time 

Can I Detox From Anxiety Medications at Home?

If you or a loved one are addicted to your anxiety medication, never attempt to detox at home. The withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepine dependence can be extremely uncomfortable and even life-threatening. 

The symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal include:[7]

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Shakiness, or tremors
  • Muscle pain or stiffness
  • Headache
  • Abnormal heart beats
  • Sweating
  • Psychosis 
  • Anxiety 
  • Panic attacks 
  • Insomnia 
  • Seizures 

Because you can experience seizures during benzodiazepine withdrawal, you should always receive medical assistance from a professional benzodiazepine detox center. Drug and alcohol detox centers can prescribe medications and treatments that soothe your withdrawal symptoms, preventing you from experiencing life-threatening effects.

Find a Benzodiazepine Detox Center in South Florida

At Mandala Healing Center, we believe a serene healing environment provides a level of comfort and safety that influences a patient’s positive attitude and response to detox. Situated on a peaceful 8-acre campus in West Palm Beach, The Mandala Healing Center is a retreat-like sanctuary designed to allow individuals to focus completely on healing — body, mind, and spirit. Our South Florida drug and alcohol detox center offers a premium living environment along with expert treatment services. When a patient is first entering recovery, protection, and structure are critical. Providing a quiet space allows patients to distance themselves from outside distractions, giving them the opportunity to begin to heal from within.

To learn more about our programs or to find help for yourself or a loved one, please call today.