Can Anxiety Be Treated Without Drugs?

Tuesday, 28 May 2013 03:12 PM

By Peter Hibberd, M.D.

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Question: I have two sons, 21 and 19 years old. They both have anxiety attacks. Is there something they can take without becoming addicted to prescription drugs?

Dr. Hibberd’s answer:
 
Anxiety attacks or panic attacks? Could they be using supplements, or are they really bipolar? There is a difference. Panic can be debilitating, and it is important to find a management plan that suits the situation.
 
Everyone has anxiety from time to time and medication is not usually the best first step. Your sons could try learning some relaxation techniques. They might also allow for a break in their day to relax, and be sure they are not cutting back on their sleep.
 
They should also eliminate stimulant use, especially caffeine after 3 p.m., and limit their alcohol consumption.
 
Sometimes alcohol has a paradoxical effect of agitating, and it can precipitate acute anxiety or even panic attacks. They should stop all supplement use while figuring out the best approach to treatment.
 
Some conditions, such as bipolar disorder, require very specific prescription drug treatment to control properly. Unfortunately, a large number people diagnosed as "hyperactive," or with "attention deficit" or "anxiety or panic" disorders are actually bipolar, and treatment now favors the use of anticonvulsant medication, not anxiety meds like Xanax or Valium.
 
Drug-addicted patients are difficult to treat, mainly because their short-term solution to a difficulty has led them into a long-term problem. There are options, so be sure to consult a doctor.
 
Group counseling and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can be very useful in reducing overuse of pharmaceuticals. We also have many medications that can be used for anxiety that don’t pose an addiction risk. For instance, low doses of Inderal can control stage fright and some cases of migraine, even though this agent is a heart/blood pressure medication. If your doctor is not familiar with alternative options, change doctors now.
 
Your sons should be evaluated by a skilled physician, or psychiatrist, and I'm confident a suitable option is available.

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