Antianxiety Drugs

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  • Tranquilizers (also known as anxiolytics) first developed in the 1950s to reduce the mental and physical tension associated with anxiety. Similar to barbiturates, these early anxiolytics could be lethal on overdose. Therefore, benzodiazepines (e.g., diazepam/Valium) grew in popularity in the treatment of anxiety, given the lower risk of lethal overdose. However, the side effects of benzodiazepines (including severe physical dependence) and their potentially fatal combination with alcohol, led to the development of buspirone (BuSpar), a slower-acting drug that eliminates some of the problems of benzodiazepines. Notably, antidepressants that increase serotonin have also been successfully used to treat anxiety. For more information, see Gorman (2003).

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