Journal of Medical Sciences

Medication for Stress and Anxiety


Serepax, Valium, Ativan, Murelax, Frisium, Xanax, Ducene. These are just a few of the trade names for the tranquilizers marketed by several pharmaceutical companies.

Tranquilizers, or anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs) are excellent medications if used correctly. Unfortunately, they have received bad press in recent years because of their abuse by a small number of patients.

Doctors are very much aware of prescribing these products correctly to avoid their long-term potential for dependence. Some patients can be very demanding and very persuasive and quite ingenious in their attempts to obtain larger quantities than they really need.

Tranquilizers are designed to control the stress associated with short-term crises in a person’s life. Loss of job, death in the family, marriage problems, trouble at work, disobedient teenage children, financial shortfalls — the list of stresses experienced in life goes on and on.

If these problems are causing you to lose sleep, concentration, become tearful, temperamental or just feel that you can’t cope, a course of tranquilizers over a few weeks can enable you to see your problems in a more reasonable light and work to overcome them. Ideally, the patient starts on a moderate dose, increases this to obtain adequate control if necessary, and then slowly tapers down the medication to a stop after a month or two.

Anxiety affects a third of the population, but nowhere near all of them will require medication to cope with this anxiety. Anxiety is subtly different to stress, in that stress may cause anxiety, or it may develop for no apparent reason at all. The patient can become fearful, have feelings of unease and dread, and may develop physical symptoms such as a tremor, difficulty in swallowing or hot flushes.

Once again, tranquilizers can play a part in controlling these symptoms. When the patient feels anxious, they use a tranquilizer to control their feelings. Sometimes they may need them several times a day, at other times they may go for weeks without needing any help.

The tablet is a crutch to help their fractured psyche through the day. This type of prescribing is harder for a doctor to control, and may lead to abuse of the drug if the patient uses the pills when they are not really required. Some degree of anxiety is a normal part of life.

The major problem in the use of tranquilizers is dependence, when too many tablets are taken for too long. This is different to addiction, where severe withdrawal symptoms occur if the drug is removed. Dependence is easier to deal with, but still requires the cooperation of doctor and patient to slowly reduce the dosage over many months.

Other problems include drowsiness and slowed reflexes. These are usually due to a dosage that is too high, but it may just require a few days on treatment for the side-effects to subside. Care should be taken with driving and operating machinery on the first few days of any tranquilizer course. Alcohol will exacerbate the side-effects, and must be avoided.

If your doctor prescribes tranquilizers, don’t refuse to take them. He or she will be doing this for a good reason and will be aware of the problems requiring their use, and the problems that must be avoided by their use.

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